September has us feeling hot, hot, hot! Perhaps you save your riding for early morning or late evening when temperatures are more bearable, or perhaps you just tough it out; after all, we are equestrians, not weenies!
But whatever time of day you’re riding, it’s important to remember to hydrate! So on this “Thirsty Thursday”, we are gonna talk about healthy horse hydration (say that five times fast!).
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We’ve all heard “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink” … but do you know just how much water your horse SHOULD be drinking daily??
A good rule of thumb is about 1 gallon per 100lbs of body weight. So, an average 1000lb horse would need about 10 GALLONS of water daily… give or take their individual needs and exercise routine.
Why is it so important for your horse to drink enough water, you ask?
Well, a horse’s body is about 2/3 water! That means for an average sized horse (say 1000lbs) about 660lbs of his mass is water!! That’s about 80 GALLONS!! Whoa Nelly, that’s a lot of water!!
- Keeping tissues moist
- Regulating temperature
- Lubricating joints and protecting organs
- flushing waste
- dissolving nutrients/minerals and
- Delivering nutrients/electrolytes to cells
What about Electrolytes?
When your horse becomes dehydrated, his electrolyte supply becomes depleted. This means that his muscles and other bodily functions cannot work optimally. Remember: Replenishing electrolytes DOES NOT hydrate your horse. Water hydrates your horse! Being properly hydrated allows for the distribution of essential electrolytes for proper function.
How do you know if your horse is starting to become dehydrated?
A horse’s skin loses its elasticity when its body fluid or electrolyte levels are depleted. An easy way to identify this is to pinch up a skin fold along the horse’s neck. A dehydrated horse’s skin will stay up in a ridge, while healthy skin should spring smoothly back into place. Other signs of dehydration include:
- Dullness in the eyes
- Dry skin and mouth
- Thick and sticky saliva
It is especially important for horses partaking in strenuous performance sports to stay hydrated. During these extra hot summer days, however, do not underestimate how much activity you are doing. Sometimes a simple lesson, afternoon hack, or short trail ride might be enough for you and your horse to become dehydrated.
So drink up! Give your horse plenty of opportunity to drink, rest, and recover, and remember that pushing for perfection on hot days is simply not worth the risk of injury or illness to either of you.