In hot summer months, horses sweat a lot. Drop for
drop, they loose more electrolytes than people. Electrolytes are the salts that help maintain vital functions in the body.
The most important ones are sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Without them, your horse can suffer severe
cramps and even lose some mental function. Theses salts also help stimulate a horse's thirst, as his system is slower than
ours to tell him he needs water, which is why that phrase about leading horses to water is so popular, and true.
Providing a white salt block is a good start, but doesn't supply the full sprectrum that he needs for overall health. There
are speicalized electrolytes available from tack and feed stores that can meet your horse's needs. Don't add them to his only
source of drinking water, though, or you could actually cause him to overdose!
ideally be fed in a powder that is top-dressed over the feed, or a syringe squirted in the mouth, rather than added to the
water source. However,if your horse has been sweating a lot, adding them once to a bucket of water will do the trick, just
don't make this a habit for everyday water supplies. Also, don't try to cheap out and just give Gatorade or other human mixes.
They are high in sugar and don't supply the right mix of electrolytes; stick with the equine versions.
As always, keep an eye out for dehydration, check for skin "tenting" as in last summer's tip, when you press
on the gums, they should re-color within a couple of seconds, nervousness, fatiute, tremors and stiffness or cramping,
- Fresh, tepid water
given to a hot, sweaty horse will not cause colic or laminitis and goes a long way to keep him going better for you. Even
riding on a full stomach of water won't do any harm, his tummy absorb the water pretty quick.
- Boost water intake include soaking his hay pre-feeding, or his feed. This can add
up to 2 gallons in his intake!
- Add a
tablespoon or two of loose salt to his feed ration.
let him drink his fill. Research is indicating that letting him "sip" as he cools off will reduce his overall consumption
as opposed to allowing him to drink as much as he wants.
blocks alone may not provide enough as some horses lick them more than others, so you may need to add salt to the feed if
you notice your horse not using his block.
fresh pasture or fresh fruits can contribute to his water intake. Keep his tank clean and in the shade, with constant access. He
will drink more, wouldn't you?
- Add electrolytes to his
feed as needed- if in hard work or very humid weather. You can mix lite salt and table salt- 3 parts table salt, 1 part lite
salt. Generally speaking, most horses just need 2 oz a day, but in hard work may need 5 oz.
- If your horse is a picky drinker, bring water from home on trips, or get him to drink
flavored water (get him used to this at home)
- After a
hard workout or competition, don't feed dry hay-it will draw water from the gut. Instead, moisten the hay before feeding it.
- In severe cases of dehydration, call the vet. Your horse may need IV fluids
and monitoring for a full recovery.