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Any truth to whiskey as a colic treatment?

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  • Any truth to whiskey as a colic treatment?

    I experienced a very stupifying moment earlier this sumer when a school pony at the barn was colicy. I asked my trainer if she had ever heard of using whiskey as a remedy for mild colic. She looked at me like that was just the silliest thing ever and went on to tell me that she had never heard of the idea until she moved here (from Canada) and that it was just local wive's tale.

    Well, now I feel incrediby stupid. Here I am, in my early 20's, having spent my entire horsie career believeing in and using whiskey on horses who were colicy because my previous trainer always used the remedey and claimed that a vet she frequently used had told her about it. I have personally driven home (under the age of 21) smelling of whiskey because I just finished squirting huge syringes full of it into a horse's mouth. I had observed horses get better after having whiskey and nothing else... and attributed it to the whiskey.

    I am feeling very stupid at this point, to say the least. Not to mention, wondering if a vet really did tell my old trainer that.

    Is ther ANY truth behind this? The theory I was told was that the alcohol neuralized gas in the stomach.

  • #2


    • Original Poster

      Aw, darn. I've been living a lie I suppose. lol

      Does this mean that the horse's that appeared to recover from their colic symptoms after having whiskey were just getting over it on their own? Or perhaps the handwalking/exercise they received?


      • #4
        Maybe a shot of whiskey for YOU while horsey is colicky?? It'll at least calm your nerves
        Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
        My equine soulmate
        Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding


        • #5
          There might (MIGHT) be some minor (MINOR) anti-spasmodic effect with alcohol. Maybe. (MAYBE.)

          But in this day and age there is seriously no good reason to try to treat a colic with whiskey.


          • Original Poster


            Add this to the list of things I am realizing for the first time after leaving that barn last year. Spent 12 years learning information that I am now discovering is more or less false.

            I am now really wondering about the vet she supposedly got the idea from... because it was not something she picked up decades ago. I'm hoping she was lying or just forgot who told actually told her because the fellow is still practicing.


            • #7
              Well. It is in a book. In Horse Heaven, the slightly aged stallion who gets a little over excited when covering a mare is tubed with a pint (maybe more) of whiskey to settle him down a little bit so he can get the job done.

              But, you know, it's fiction and not a veterinary reference


              • #8
                Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                Well. It is in a book. In Horse Heaven, the slightly aged stallion who gets a little over excited when covering a mare is tubed with a pint (maybe more) of whiskey to settle him down a little bit so he can get the job done.

                But, you know, it's fiction and not a veterinary reference
                I thought it was because then he wouldn't notice the mare was ugly...


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
                  I thought it was because then he wouldn't notice the mare was ugly...
                  That was good.


                  • #10
                    An old trainer I know mixes whiskey with eggs and worcestershire sauce and gives it to them as a drench. I have seen it work twice, if not I would have never believed it, but in both cases (for early impaction) it has. About half an hour after the drench, the stall walls, the horse and everything else was covered in manure.

                    You could probably fill a book with the huge list of home remedies people have been using to combat colic over the years. If you are interested in "old timey" veterinary practices, pick up Magner's Classic Encyclopedia of the Horse.

                    One of Magner's treatments for colic is 1 T. ginger in a pint of hot water or warm brandy or whiskey. That's circa 1887!


                    • #11
                      I know a trainer that swears by 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of any liquor but gin (something bad about gin), and some baking soda.....works only on gas colics...the liquor is supposed to relax the stomach and help with pain, and the baking soda neutralises the gas. And basically, if it doesn't work withing 30 minutes, you know you have to call the vet b/c it's more than just a little gas colic. I've seen it work several times...and the horses really like peppermint schnapps :-)


                      • #12
                        "...An old trainer I know mixes whiskey with eggs and worcestershire sauce and gives it to them as a drench..." My grandmother used to prescribe this as a hangover treatment ! LOL

                        If we have colic symptoms coming on, I serve a mix of Baking Soda and Milk of Mag (as Rxed by my vet). If symptoms haven't subsided within an hour, time to call for help. So far (30 years) so good. Knock on wood...
                        Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


                        • #13
                          You shouldn't feel stupid...but what you should now know is that you can do your own independent research (which you are), and sometimes it is okay to question people and their decisions when it comes to horses. But for the record...my horse trainer in maryland, who is also a dear friend of mine, so i trust her, did the same thing with whiskey. She kept it in the barn....now, she did a lot of cooky crap, but most everything she did worked and really amazed me...because there were several times I would have called the vet, but she knew what to do. She is from sweden and was raised up in horses with some people we know as world renowned dressage riders, but I will not use those to prevent name dropping. Apparently these were some of their practices too.

                          For instance, she was a big proponent of "strapping". anyone ever heard of this? I do it to my horse still, probably only because he loves it and it makes me feel like I am doing something good for him. Does it really work, who the hell knows. Google it...I don't want to sound like I am torturing him.
                          "Lose your temper, lose your horse" -someone wise enough to know better than to pick a fight with a 1200 lb animal that could launch you to the moon.


                          • #14
                            I know that a Corona works, weirdest thing.


                            • #15
                              I'd never heard of this before, but I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with (don't laugh too hard) easing the horse's physical levels of stress, because stress may contribute to the worsening of the colic?

                              A quick search of the internet (not the most reliable of sources I know) shows a whole range of responses that include whiskey mixed with coffee (I would assume for the caffeine), porter mixed with fresh grated ginger and coffee, etc.

                              I suspect that any vet would think the worse of you for trying one of these remedies rather than calling the vet, though.
                              "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


                              • #16
                                Come on, haven't you all read Black Beauty?

                                200 years ago, ethanol was pretty much the basis of a lot of medications because it . . . did stuff. If a person with abdominal distress had a couple of drinks, maybe they felt better or at least acted quieter. That was all the "evidence" that was required back then to attempt to use the same stuff medicinally for other ailments or in other creatures.

                                Nowadays, of course, we can do a little better and this sort of treatment would be barbaric and possibly in the "more harm than good" category. Ethanol is poisonous and can make the use of other drugs much more risky.
                                Click here before you buy.


                                • #17
                                  I think that last sentence of DW's bears re-reading.

                                  We've got better options nowadays, and to make them unusable because you've just poured a pint of whiskey down your horse's throat would be some bad juju.

                                  As for "strapping," nothing wrong with that at all--helps build mucle in both of you...


                                  • #18
                                    Well...next time I see an enterolith on radiographs, or a shocky horse with a suspected strangulating lipoma I'll let the doctors know hey this horse doesn't need IV fluids and surgery, just some whiskey will unstrangulate that bowel and dissolve that enterolith! No need to spend thousands, the horse will be fine... why does everyone look so worried??


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Originally posted by cute_lil_fancy_pants_pony View Post
                                      Well...next time I see an enterolith on radiographs, or a shocky horse with a suspected strangulating lipoma I'll let the doctors know hey this horse doesn't need IV fluids and surgery, just some whiskey will unstrangulate that bowel and dissolve that enterolith! No need to spend thousands, the horse will be fine... why does everyone look so worried??
                                      Oh don't get me wrong, whiskey was never presentd as a treatment for serious, impaction colic. Just gas colic from horse's sucking down food, cribbing very badly, or getting upset by something. Definitely not a substitute for surgery.


                                      • #20
                                        I loving refer to whiskey and baking soda as the West Virginia colic remedy.

                                        My old guy lives in a not terribly horsey area of WV. He will occasionally get a mild colic. The first time he did it, the local vet couldn't get out to him right away, so he told my mom to get a turkey baster, some whiskey, and baking soda and squirt it down his throat. Well, it DOES work. Like others have said, I think it just has a mild pain relief/anti spasmodic property (same reason soldiers in field hospitals during the Civil War would be given a swig of whiskey before "operated" on!). The baking soda probably just helps settle the tummy, and he's good to go. I don't think I would rely on it in a real severe colic (like the one I dealt with over the winter, where the horse was in shock and refluxing!), but good for a gassy colic.

                                        I prefer to give them banamine, but it's good in a pinch! (My mom now has tubes of banamine paste ).