Of the colick

An eighteenth century view of colic in horses

source: Henry Bracken
Farriery Improved: or a Compleat Treatise upon the Art of Farriery 5th ed London, 1745
starts p200, 14 pages long

Colic affects horses when flatus, or wind cannot be expelled, giving rise to violent pains. Carminative medicines are used to expel wind, and they work by thinning vapours and allowing their discharge. The effect of medicines can be sudden, like a gunpowder explosion, so long as there is no serious obstruction.

Colic is a term that should strictly speaking only be used for problems with the colon, though it has also come to refer to problems with the bowels and stomach.

A choler that irritates the bowels is called ‘Bilious-Colick’, and one cure is a clyster, which includes a mix of camomile flowers and mallow leaves. This helps to clean the straight gut and colon of excrement. A purge may also be useful after the clyster. The purge includes Alexandrian senna, liquorice root, caraway seeds, and juniper berries.

Opiates should not be given at the start of an attack of colic, but they are needed at the end of the cure, once clysters and purgatives have been administered, since they help ease tumult suffered in the bowels.

Moderate exercise will also help horses suffering from colic. A gentle trot helps by shaking the guts and dislodging the enemy.

‘Windy-Colick’ is the result of wind pent up in the bowels, and leads to horses lying down and getting up suddenly, and striking their bellies with their back legs, as a result of the intense pain. The cause is due to dung being retained for too long, so that the flatulence cannot pass through. The cure involves removing the hardened dung by hand, after the farrier has annointed his hand in butter or oil. This task should be performed by someone with a small hand, so as not to cause damage and an inflammation in the horse’s straight gut, which can be more serious than colic.

A clyster can be used to discharge grosser excrements, then a clyster administered for gut pains. The ingredients include camomile flowers, aniseed, and a half pint of rum or brandy

There are other types of colic, such as ‘Hysterick-Colick’, ‘Nervous-Colick’, and ‘Stone-Colick’, the last being a result of bladder or kidney stones, but these three types of colic are not often found in horses.