I was out competing over the weekend, and with the heatwave we are currently experiencing hydrating horses and people becomes a problem.
For the human entourage I obtained a pack of six 1L bottles of water. Sure, that`s an excessive amount but what we didn`t drink wouldn`t go to waste. Then we had the rest of our food stashed in cool bags, even the crisps! We made sure we bought an ice cream halfway through the day too. Obviously.
On the horse front I filled the 30L container to the brim and put that in the trailer. My horse always sweats when travelling so I try and make sure I have enough to wash him down plenty of times.
For breakfast, Otis had Calm and Condition in his feed, which is a soaked feed, so provides plenty of H2O.
Once we arrived at the venue he was sponged off, but stayed in the trailer while I got my number. Our dressage test was at midday so the hottest part of the day, which meant that within minutes he was dripping with sweat.
So after the dressage he was offered another drink and washed off. I didn`t bother using the sweat scraper because he`s not a big drinker so I wanted him to get the benefit of having as much cool water as possible on his skin. He stayed inside the cool trailer, with the vents and front ramp open for an hour and a half while we walked the cross country course and watched a bit of the class below me.
When we got back to the trailer Otis still didn`t want a drink, which is always worrying because when horses get dehydrated they lose the want to drink any water. So we sponged him off again and let him have a munch on the long grass, which was surprisingly damp still. Then I went off and did my showjumping, coming back both very hot and sweaty. It wasn`t long until the cross country and he still wasn`t interested in drinking, so he was well rinsed off while I changed outfits and leaving him with damp shoulders I tacked him back up.
Amazingly, Otis still wasn`t interested in water after the tiring cross country phase, and he was panting quite a lot so we used about three buckets of water washing him off cooling his legs down, and walking him around. After he`d stopped panting I let him have a bit more of the lush grass. I did the pinch test on his skin and he didn`t seem dehydrated, but it`s always worrying when I`m guzzling down water like it`s going out of fashion and he isn`t interested. The granola bars were another thing all together, and Otis would have quite happily eaten the whole box! While I was munching mine he practically nibbled the rest out of my hand! Perhaps I should put them in his water next time…
Once we got home, and Otis wasn`t too sweaty, I mixed him another feed with Calm and Condition and drowned it in water. He was going to drink something! I think he drank out of his stable drinker fairly early on, and I washed his sides again to get the salty sweat off. I then left him in with a good amount of haylage and plenty of water.
To my relief this morning Otis seemed non the worse for wear, and we`d kept him hydrated and he`d drunk quite a lot in the night because his bed had two large wet patches.
It`s hard keeping the horses interested in drinking when it`s so warm though. I think you can buy a water flavouring for fussy drinkers, but also washing them with loads of water means that it is absorbed through the skin, thus hydrating them. Soaked hay, or haylage will help too because of the moisture content, and also just good old fresh rich grass. Like the sort you usually have in lorry parks!
Some people add table salt to the feed to ensure that the horse`s sodium levels don`t drop, but this can make the feed unpalatable, especially if it`s not mixed in very well. Other people feed electrolytes, and you can now get them in an energy-drink style bottle, that you almost tube to the horse. These seem a good idea in an emergency, or at competitions but I guess they have short shelf lives. The other alternative is the electrolyte feed supplement, which is a powder and has a longer shelf life, but similar problems to feeding table salt.
Others swear by a salt lick in the stable, but I think that can be hit and miss as to whether your horses is using it, or whether he`s overloading himself with sodium by constantly licking it. I think too that in the natural salt licks the actual sodium content varies greatly. On the other hand, if a salt lick is available then a horse will seek it out when they feel low in salt. Much the same as in the wild when horses browse for different herbs and grasses.
Wouldn`t it be so much easier if they could just tell us what they need in their diet?