The aim of this study was to estimate the incidence of colic in horses in Thoroughbred training premises in 1997 in the British Isles. The seasonal pattern and outcome of colic episodes were also investigated, together with any association between premises level variables and colic. Data were collected by a postal questionnaire.
The results showed a colic incidence density of 7.19/100 horse years (s.e. 0.42) and a cumulative incidence of colic of 5.80% (s.e. 0.30). Premises were grouped according to whether they had more Flat than National Hunt horses (Flat premises) or more National Hunt than Flat horses (NH premises). A similar rate of colic episodes was found in each group. However, significantly higher cumulative incidences of one episode of colic were found in the Flat premises and of multiple episodes in the NH premises, respectively. The outcome of each episode of colic showed spontaneous recovery in 28.7%, medical recovery in 63.1%, surgical recovery in 2.0% and death in 6.2% of cases. This indicated an overall mortality rate from colic of 0.45 deaths/100 horse years. The seasonal pattern of episodes of colic showed a spring and autumn peak, with significant differences in the seasonal pattern between the Flat and NH premises. Relative risk analysis and logistic regression modelling with random effects showed significant associations between the number of episodes of colic and the number of horses on the premises (allowing for the number of horses on each premises, the larger premises had a decreased risk of colic). After adjusting for the number of horses, 3 other variables were associated with colic; Flat premises (with an increased risk), the owner being the sole person looking after the horses (a decreased risk) and the premises being a combined training and breeding establishment (a decreased risk).