Welcome to our last Thirsty Thursday by Dr. Joe Rosenberg from Paniolo Equine Veterinary Services.
Daily Hydration is Your Best Weapon Against Illness
Although most of us realize that giving a horse fresh water is a daily essential, how many of us have really considered the importance of keeping an eye on DAILY
hydration levels? A horse's body weight is 60-70% water and an average-sized horse needs 10 gallons of water a day. Rapid loss of water from the horse's system, as little as 20%, can cause instant death. Monitoring hydration must
therefore be a part of your daily care routine.
The actual daily amount of water that most horses need to consume (at a minimum) to maintain body functions and remain properly hydrated is from a half gallon to a gallon per hundred pounds of body weight. This works out to be a minimum of five to ten gallons for a 1,000-pound horse that is not presently doing any work and is living in a temperate climate. If you increase the horse’s workload or the environmental temperatures are elevated, then this will increase the demand for water. Lactating mares, horses with diarrhea, and horses with certain medical conditions will also require more water each day.
Here are some helpful tips to keep your horse hydrated every day
1) First, provide fresh, clean water in clean troughs or buckets at all times. Check frequently for dirt, debris, manure, dead animals, or other contaminants. (These truly are deterrents: I have seen horses dehydrated and colicking in a paddock because they would not drink water from a trough with a dead opossum in it.)
2) In cold weather horses drink less water, especially if the water is cold as ice (or literally is ice). Warm up the water in the wintertime by regularly adding hot water or by using bucket or trough heaters. Studies have shown that horses prefer drinking water that is around 50°F. Offering tepid water with your horse’s favorite flavor of Horse Quencher is a great way to ensure your horse drinks their entire bucket of water, as Horse Quencher’s uniquely weighted blend encourages horse to not only drink, but to drink the whole bucket.
On the other hand, horses drink more water in hot and/or humid weather conditions, especially if they have been exercising and sweating. Horses' water intake can double under these circumstances, so make sure they have enough fresh, clean water; refilling water receptacles frequently or add buckets/troughs as necessary to account for this increase in water intake.
3) Next, make sure your horse's diet is meeting his sodium requirements; correct sodium balance in the horse is necessary for proper thirst response and body water equilibrium. Salt blocks or salt licks are an affordable and convenient approach. However, researchers have shown that individual intake of salt from these blocks is highly variable, and horses might not consume enough salt from these sources to meet their daily sodium requirements, especially if they are exercising and sweating regularly. And guess what? Horse Quencher is made up of 20% salt and is a great alternative to salt blocks. As you can see, I love my HQ.
Offering plain, loose table salt free-choice or along with daily concentrate meals is another way to supplement sodium in a ration. This is also relatively convenient and inexpensive, but it’s important to consider these points when choosing this option as well: Top-dressing large quantities of salt can lead to inconsistent intake (some horses can sort salt from the feed with their lips, leaving the supplement uneaten) or palatability problems (top-dressed salt can reduce feed consumption because some horses might not like the taste).