With all this hot weather, keeping your horse hydrated is so important. This is the first proper summer we’ve had for several years and our horses aren’t really used to dealing with the heat. But we can do lots of things to make sure they stay healthy and happy.
It’s very important to be aware of the signs of dehydration. You are the one who know your horse best. If you think your horse isn’t himself, he’s lethargic, has a dull coat, or has sunken eyes then he might be dehydrated. Also keep an eye out for him being off his food, be passing dark urine and licking surfaces. You can use the ‘skin test’ to help you confirm the problem. In a normal horse, if you pinch a piece of skin on the neck and pull it towards you it will spring back into place. But with a dehydrated horse, the skin will slowly fall back into place with no elasticity. If you’re at all concerned for your horse’s welfare then call your vet, who will then be able to examine his heart rate and respiration to see whether it is elevated.
You can limit the chances of this happening by making sure you horse always has access to clean fresh water. I clean my stable buckets out every day and do several checks to top them up, especially if she’s done canter work or competition the day before. You know your horse better than anyone else so keep an eye out for any changes in you horse’s behaviour.
Horses can find travelling and competing stressful
Add in the extra heat and you could run into problems. If you’re on a long journey it’s important to offer your horse a drink every two or three hours to keep their water levels topped up. Also make sure the back of the lorry or trailer is cool by opening a few more windows if you can. It’s good to remember that as much as a matching rug and travel boots look smart, if it’s hot your horse really doesn’t need a travel rug on. If you don’t need a jumper, neither does your horse! While at the competition, your horse should continuously be offered water and forage and given time to relax before and after competing.
One of the best tools to help reduce the risk of dehydration and, in Indi’s case, tying up is to use electrolytes.
Horses need electrolytes to help them retain water and the main ones lost through sweating are sodium, potassium and chloride. Ideally, electrolytes should be provided immediately after your horse has undergone heavy exercise. I always walk Indi off for 20mins after cross country and then give her a small feed with electrolytes in. You can also buy pastes to syringe into the horse’s mouth quickly and easily. Adding just a tablespoon of salt to your horse’s feed every day and providing a salt block can also help them keep their sodium levels up and reduce the risk of dehydration.