Avoid dehydration

Your horse relies on you to make sure it gets enough liquids to replace those lost while sweating during competitions, cautions Kim Dyson.

Avoid dehydration
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Sweating is the body’s way of cooling down. If it doesn’t sweat, the body will overheat. This is something we have to bear in mind, especially when riding at competition level. Water is constantly being lost and must be replaced. Without water, the body will dehydrate and death could occur. And, unfortunately, horses don’t have a strong ‘thirst reaction’. Around 70% of an adult horse’s weight is made up of water. A horse weighing 450kg contains 300kg of water and only 150kg of tissue, muscle, fat and brain!

A resting horse needs to drink 5l of water per 100kg of his body weight, or 22,5l/day. One black bucket a day is just not enough! A horse riding at around 45km/h produces enough heat to bring more than 9l of water to boil after just two minutes. The average endurance horse travelling 17km/h sweats around 12,5l every hour and produces enough heat in that hour to bring nearly 13l of water to boil.

The next alarming point is that on an 80km run, an endurance horse loses around 350g salt in its sweat. This is equivalent to 30% to 50% of the total sodium in his body.

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Some tips:

  • Only give electrolytes if your horse sweated heavily in the box ride.
  • Never give electrolytes to a horse that’s not drinking.
  • Feeding hay four to five hours before the event will increase the body’s water content. If you’re able to dampen the hay, so much the better.
  • If the weather is warm, offer water. If it’s cold, add warm water to the water bucket to encourage drinking.
  • Give electrolytes after the competition of an event to a horse that’s sweated a lot. Horses are unable to store electrolytes, so it’s best to always give electrolytes after strenuous work to help replenish lost salts.
  • Use a weigh tape to measure your horse before boxing, after boxing and after competition. This will show you how much liquid a horse loses through sweating.
  • Make a sloppy feed the night before a ride. This will help with the water intake. Use carrots and apples as well.

I’ve also noticed that some horses will stop drinking if the water has a strange smell. If you haven’t brought enough water from home, add a tin of Coke to the ‘strange water’. This might entice him to drink. I’m very strict about my water buckets. I always travel with my own. This minimises the chances of picking up a stomach bug. A horse with diarrhoea will dehydrate very quickly.

Add 10ml of Milton when using water from a stream. This will minimise the chance of contracting an illness. Finally, when competing, make sure you have a tub of good quality electrolytes in the feed room. My rule is “if your horse is drinking and has sweated, give the recommended dosage”.

Contact Kim Dyson on 082 888 6511 or at [email protected]. Please state ‘Horse therapy’ in the subject line of your email.