Last updated on September 27, 2023
How to Prevent Dehydration in Horses
As the temperatures start warming up, and competition season is in full swing, it’s super important to keep an eye on your horse’s water intake and actively prevent dehydration. According to equimed.com, “dehydration is often not recognized until 5% or more of body weight is lost.” By that time, damage could already be done to their kidneys, muscle function, and gut (impaction colic can be caused by dehydration). Yikes! Most horse owners understand the importance of keeping their horses hydrated, especially during the hot summer months. But did you know that horses are picky about the temperature of their water? Or that they can smell and actively avoid contaminated water (either from chemicals or natural contaminants)?
Know the Signs!
Signs of dehydration in horses include: muscle weakness, dry mucous membranes, and a high heart rate. If you pinch your horse’s skin between your fingers, the skin should fall back within 2 seconds. If it takes longer, that’s a sign of slow capillary refill, which is another sign of dehydration.
The average-sized horse weighing around 1,000-1,200 lbs. needs up to 10 gallons of water a day. If they are exercising and/or it’s hot and humid, they will need 2-3 times that much! If you have a lactating mare, she will need 75% more water than when she was not lactating.
Ways to Prevent Dehydration
So, now that you know the numbers, what can you do to make sure your horse stays well-hydrated throughout the hot summer months? Read on for some great, totally feasible tips to prevent dehydration in your horse.
1. Make Sure They Have Access to Fresh Water
- This seems pretty common sense, but horses should have access to fresh, clean water all day. If that’s not possible, make sure to give water every couple of hours. This is the number one way to prevent dehydration in horses (and any living thing).
- When transporting, stop and offer water every four hours when possible.
- If exercising strenuously during hot and humid weather, offer water every 15 minutes. Horses lose most of their electrolytes through sweat.
- Most horses prefer water between 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Think about it- do YOU like drinking hot water when you’re hot and sweaty? Neither do your horses!
2. Offer Electrolytes Before and After Strenuous Work
- Giving water and salt directly before a performance will help decrease the rate of dehydration.
- According to the University of Washington, “electrolytes are minerals essential for many of the body’s functions, including nerve and muscle function, hydration, and pH balance.”
- Our Foundation Daily Detox contains several minerals containing electrolytes vital for proper hydration. Feeding your horse FDD will help keep them hydrated no matter their activity level.
3. Keep a Healthy, Hydrated Hindgut
- A healthy hindgut holds water and electrolytes in reserves, allowing the horse’s body to absorb them when needed. A healthy, hydrated hindgut is the number one prevention of impact colic. Apart from Foundation Daily Detox, NuTrack Digestive Supplement also helps prevent dehydration due to keeping the hindgut healthy.
- In The Zone calming paste has also been shown to help prevent dehydration by making the horse want to drink water soon after being given ITZ paste.
Keep Hydration in Mind This Summer
As we ease out of Spring and into Summer, it’s vital to keep an eye on your horse’s water consumption to prevent serious health issues. If your horse is showing visible signs of dehydration, it’s already pretty serious. Try to limit strenuous activity during the hottest, most humid time of the day, and offer small amounts of fresh water every 15-20 minutes during exercise. Make sure they have access to cool, clean, water and replenish their lost electrolytes. These steps will help prevent dehydration in your horse. And if you’re not already, we highly recommend feeding Foundation Daily Detox and NuTrack to help your horse stay fully hydrated and achieve their best health. Check out our shop page to order your supplements now!
“Keeping Your Horse Cool and Hydrated: The Importance of Electrolytes.” University of Washington, /sites.uw.edu/smurch/keeping-your-horse-cool-and-hydrated/#:~:text=Horses%20need%20to%20drink%20water,regularly%20to%20maintain%20hydration%20levels.
Equimed staff, “Importance of Water in Maintaining Horses Health.” equimed.com, May 3, 2017. https://equimed.com/health-centers/nutrition/articles/importance-of-water-in-maintaining-horses-health
McGilchrist, Nerida. “Keeping the Hindgut Healthy.” feedxl.com. https://feedxl.com/15-keeping-the-hindgut-healthy/
Content is for informational purposes only. Written by the team at FaithHanan.com