Sand in your belly?


The dreaded thought of any owner whose paddock isn’t the perfect mix of grasses, irrigated to the point where it feels like you’re in a tropical paradise, or Bali.

Sand colic is a huge issue where I agist, and my Unicorn experienced it to the  worst point. He ended up in Murdoch for 10 days, drenched twice daily. He came through it, but the effect it had on his stomach made him extremely susceptible to it – the second time, it was combined with a lot of other issues and it was one of the contributing factors that made him not make it.

So me? I have a form of PTSD. My enemy is sand. But where we’re stationed, we can’t get away from it. So I’ve learnt the hard way, to attack it the hard way, and I’m hoping anyone who reads it will benefit from my experiences & heartbreak, and it may spur you into action.


If you can’t annihilate it, prevent it.

  • Rubber matting around feed (for miles, depending how messy your horse eats).
    • The best type is about 10mm, usually old conveyor belt. Avoid that with metal inside, instead use a fabric reinforcement.
    • This stuff is HARD to find. And when you do, prepare to fork out the dollars… but then again, that’s the usual thing right? And its cheaper than a colic bill.
    • If you have mats, sweep them. There’s no point having them if they have sand on top.
  • Hay nets
    • If you feed in hay nets, technically your horse cherishes the strands of hay more as they have to work for it. More so for the small holed haynets. They’re the best. It means less mess, and less snuffling on the ground.
  • Water
    • Keep your horse hydrated. Know what is the normal rate of water for your horse to drink – one of the key factors of colic is being able to keep your horse hydrated, as a hydrated horse’s inners works better than one that is dehydrated.
    • To combat this, after a ride or workout I always make sure my horse has drunk water, whether it be an electrolyte solution (Golden child hates this stuff…) or a molasses water (keep the candy to a minimum if possible) or even plain water if they drink readily.
  • Paddock
    • Unfortunately, agistees don’t have much say on their paddock – the quality of grass, the types of grasses, the size of said paddocks. It’s pretty hard to work with. If you have a lovely agistment, they often rest paddocks when they can, so are happy to swap in and out – if you have a lovely agistment though, they might be full and this might be un-achievable!
    • Try your best – fertilise with broken down manure (don’t just dump it, rake it through and break it up or pre-compost it), keep an eye on your shoots. Notice how your horse eats. Notice where it’s getting bare.
    • If you are lucky enough to own your own paddock, I’m sure you can work it out yourself ! You might halve your paddock and rest one side at a time, ensuring a good length of grass through out the year.
  • Drench
    • For me, the drench is the way to go. Six monthly intervals. Preferably psyllium and mineral oil.
    • There are other methods – psyllium husk, psyllium pellets, pumpkins, honey, etc, etc, but only the drenches have scientific evidence so far that I will support.

Now, do you want to go the extra mile?

Time to get your stethoscope out and pretend you’re the vet you wished you were when you were a child, then realised that blood and guts just wouldn’t do you.

  • Listen
    • The sand collects in the bottom of the belly. If you have a stethoscope handy, place your hand on your horse’s belly near the front legs. You want the middle of the bottom of the belly. Pop your stethoscope there and move it towards the rump of the horse slowly. Eventually you should hear gut sounds.
      Yeah, this isn’t exactly medical terminology, but I had lots of vets show me this and I never could actually hear it until I did it myself.
      If you hear oceans, its sand. Don’t freak out – most horses have a little bit of sand in them at a time. Once you do this enough, you can kind of differentiate between a lot and a little. I’m still learning.
      As you move it further along the midline of the underneath of the belly, when the ocean ends, supposedly the sand ends.
      This obviously isn’t a vet diagnosis. It’s just a way you can guess-timate your sand. If the oceans loud and continues for a decent length, I’d call a vet and let them know, ask them what they think.Click here to be directed to a YouTube video that will show you where to put the stethoscope
  • The Yucky Glove
    • Pop on a disposable glove, go your paddock, find a fresh dump (preferably on grass with no sand), stick your hand into the innards and collect a lovely ball of fecal matter. Inside out your glove (carefully, I’ve had one attempt to jump ship), fill it with water, and tie it up on a fence to settle.
      The fingers of the glove will collect a level of sand.
      From this, you can guess-timate the amount of sand coming out of your horse per poop.

      The colour of the sand of course will change depending on where you are – but the colour of poop won’t change much!

The point of this? You can detect a rough pattern, and will be able to see changes.

Is it better than calling a vet? No. If you are unsure, please call. Don’t put it off.

These lovely activities are basically helping you monitor, but they aren’t the exact truth. Your horse can be pooping out sand, but not necessarily be full of it – it can be them successfully moving it out.
It could sound like your horse is full of sand in it’s belly – but to the untrained ear, you don’t have a great idea.
So disclaimer – I’m not a vet, this isn’t the best advice you’ll ever get, this doesn’t overcome the vet’s opinion.
I mean gosh, they’re a VET. They’ve studied for years, dedicating their life to putting hands up horse arses, taking bloods, cleaning up blood clots – they are a lot better than any random voice on the internet.

Best idea? When your vet comes, get them to listen, and show/advise you. Then you listen, and try and see the difference. Before you get a drench, listen, then every day after, listen again – there will be improvement! (Hopefully, touch wood!)

Anyway, this is what OCD me does now.
FYI – I had the rubber mats, the hay nets, the sweeping, the drenches, called the vet immediately – it still went wrong. It happens. But you feel a lot better when you know you did try to prevent it.

Do you guys have any tips? Any experiences to share? Do you agree with these methods – or do you have a different way you keep an eye on things?

Let us know below!


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