I was telling my last foster dog's adoption coordinator how many times the dog poops every day, because I keep track, of course, and comparing the number to my own dog's poop activity. We were cracking up as she said, what is it with the weird pooping over there?
My dog poops 2, maybe 3 times per day, and eats 4 times as much as my foster dog. Dogs are not horses, obviously, but when you are taking care of them, their poop, how much there is, what it looks like, how bad it smells, etc, is just as important as horse poop. Thank goodness dogs can throw up!
Horses cannot throw up, and therein lies the importance of constant observation. If there is no poop, over several hours, that is very bad. If the poop changes from whatever normal is, to extremely dry and hard, that is bad. If it changes to very wet and runny, potential dehydration ahead.
No need to freak out, just ask some questions, or think back, if there is no one to ask but yourself...was the grass dry and brown last week and now it's fluorescent green? Did the temperature change 30-40 degrees in the last 36 hours? Did you handgraze him at a show? Is he peeing? Does he get nervous coming in the barn?
Sometimes diahhrea is just the horse responding to being taken away from his friends. If he is getting an impaction(a form of colic), it could be a sign that there is a blockage and only some stuff is getting out the back end.
If poop is dry, hard, and comes out in little individual balls, your horse could be dehydrated, which could be the result of eating hay for 24 hours in the stall, instead of grass. Keeping track of the color, consistency and amount, over a week's time, to start, is a good idea for new horse owners, and a good reminder for those of us who take care of multiple horses on a regular basis.
One of the most common types of colic I have seen is gas colic. Here in Virginia, the temperature swings we experience, especially in the fall and spring, can really make horses uncomfortable. When the temperature drops, the digestion slows down, but there is still all that grass in there, going nowhere. In the cold, horses may not drink as much, then gas pockets form. Usually, a little exercise or a blanket, when appropriate, can get the digestion system back to normal.
Learn how to listen for gut sounds and know what they mean, with or without a stethoscope.
Knowing your horse, in every way, is the most important. Where does he hang out in the field? How much water does he normally drink? Does he gobble grass or pick at it? When, where and for how long does he lie down? How does he show discomfort? Tail wringing? Pawing? Looking at his sides? Becoming depressed? Groaning? Lying down by the gate? Not lying down? Noticing discomfort and doing something about it can save your horse and save you a lot of money.
Each dog I foster(I just adopted out #29) is different, and while somehow dog poop will always be more gross to me than horse manure, at least dogs can solve digestive issues on their own, most of the time, by throwing up. Also gross, but, phew!