then don’t worry, it should be easily resolved without need to involve your vet – you simply need to make sure you get the water back into your horse quickly and efficiently. However if you’re particularly concerned about your horse’s signs then, of course, you should include your vet as a first stop. Ensure the water provided is always


RNUTR (Animal) Snr Nutritionist at NAF


HYDRATED Water is quite simply, the most important aspect of your and your horse’s, diet. Essential to life, watermakes up around 65 - 75% of the horse’s bodyweight. Over summer we have the increased requirements for water associated both with warmer weather and workload. Strenuous work can increase the water requirement by up to a massive three hundred percent. While temperature also has an effect, with trials showing that in hot weather (over 33oC) water requirements in resting horses is four to five times higher than normal. This is obviously hugely dependent on the type and level of activity, as well as the ambient temperature.

ELECTROLYTES Of course when a horse sweats he doesn’t

only lose water. Electrolytes are lost in sweat which are essential for maintaining the acid-base balance within the body. The acid-base balance regulates many cell pathways and any disruption can lead to a build up of lactate in the muscles, which leads to reduced enzyme actions and acidosis. This can result in the horse as azoturia, ranging in severity fromslight stiffness following work to acutemuscle spasms. Over time repeated dehydration results in de-mineralistion depriving muscle, bone and cartilage of the essential nutrients for post exercise recovery. The most important electrolytes, or body salts, are sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. However, losses increase with work

and temperature. It is calculated that an average horse can lose up to 90g of body salts in just two hours’ work. Therefore, it is essential to use an electrolyte supplement which provides a broad spectrum of all electrolytes for working horses. Even if your horse is not an obvious “sweater” do not

dismiss electrolytes. Significant amounts of sweat are lost by evaporation fromthe lungs as ameans controlling temperature and, again, the amounts increase massively with increased work and temperature. Many electrolyte mixes can be given both

dissolved in water or in the feed, the majority of horses will eat themcomfortably.

MINERALSWEATLOSSES Body salts are not the only nutrients lost in

sweat, trace levels of some of the essential minerals are present, including iron, copper and zinc, all important minerals for working horses. For your horse to work to his peak performance it’s important that you ensure these are also replaced. The best way of ensuring a balanced approach to mineral supplementation is to use a broad spectrum supplement, such as a concentrated balancer or liquid vitamin and mineral, which can easily be added to their daily feed.

SIGNS OFDEHYDRATION Early signs of dehydration are poor

concentration and poor performance. So if you’ve jumped a fewrounds at a show and are doing well, but at the last round you comeout with a ‘cricket score’ is that because you and your horse aren’t yet ready for that level, or is it dehydration fromthe travel and competing? Other signs include lethargy and depression,

so if your horse seems quieter than normal, particularly following hard work or during warm weather, make sure you consider their hydration status. If dehydration is allowed to continue you will also see a more concentrated, darker coloured urine. To test hydration status in your horse try

the pinch test. Simply take a pinch of skin along the neck and let it go again. It should immediately flatten again back to normal. If it’s slowto go down then that is a sign that you need to act to rehydrate your horse. If your horse has become a little dehydrated

clean and fresh. Ideally mains water should be used, but if your horse has access to natural water courses ensure there is no risk of pollution further upstream, and stagnant ponds should be avoided at all costs. If traveling and competing your horse regularly make sure you take water fromhomeas a familiar taste will also encourage horses to drink.

CONCLUSION In conclusion we can see that a

constant supply of clean fresh water is necessary for all horses regardless of workload or temperature. When additional strains are added, such as regular travel and competition, it becomes important to consider the overall effect of sweating on the horse. Finally, don’t forget your own

electrolytes – consider a sports drink designed for exercising athletes rather than your favourite soft drink if you want to keep up with your horse!


DEHYDRATION • Check troughs regularly to ensure they are full and clean.

• If using automatic waterers check they are re-filling as they should.

• Hang salt licks in the field and stable. • Feed electrolytes after hard work, when travelling and during periods of hot weather.

• Ensure water is available at all times.

LORRY LIST To ensure your horse doesn’t end

up dehydrated at this year’s shows, make sure you pack your lorry with everything you’ll need. •Afull water container – size around 20L per horse.

• Electrolytes, ready to mix. • Two water buckets, one for the electrolyte drink and one for plain water.

•Athird bucket for your horse’s refreshing cooling wash – and don’t forget the sponge!

•Afeed bucket and small palatable feed, in case you find that your horse prefers their electrolytes in their feed. • An isotonic sports drink for yourself!



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