One of the horses I’m looking after always stops to urinate when you are turning him out.
“It saves on bedding” commented someone.
I had to agree, but then over the next couple of days I thought about this horse and his routine.
He is on livery so is turned out every week day at 8.30. But on weekends his owners looks after him, so sometimes doesn’t come until a bit later. And she may not turn him out immediately, preferring to muck out or ride first. So on days like these, such as those when the farrier or vet is coming mid morning, this horse is crossing his legs for hours on end. What does this do to his bladder and kidneys?
I noticed a morning or two later how concentrated this horse’s pee was, as well as the huge quantity, which again indicates that it could be harmful to his health.
So how long is the horse stabled for? Assuming he is brought in at dark, this is about 4pm at the moment. Which means that he is waits sixteen hours until he next goes to urinate. And that is assuming the last thing he does before going into the stable is to do a number one. No wonder his urine is dark yellow!
Looking into the situation, it does appear to be a surprisingly common issue, with many horses refusing to pee away from home, or in trailers, or new yards until they have settled. Some people overcome this by taking their horse out to grass last thing at night to urinate, and again first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, there is a risk of bladder infections with this behaviour so it should be discouraged if possible.
Some yards teach horses to pee into a bucket, which reduces the bedding wasted. I used to do this with Otis, as he insists on marking his territory on a fresh bed, as it seemed ridiculous to dirty the bed immediately. Instead of getting Otis to aim in the bucket, I used to push the bucket into the firing line as he prepared himself, which meant that Otis wasn’t reliant on the bucket to be able to urinate.
You can encourage the horse to urinate more frequently by providing a deeper bed so that there is less splashing on the legs. Also by ensuring the horse is relaxed and encouraging excretion by whistling yourself. In a similar manner to humans, the noise acts as a trigger.
I also read that some horses are shy, so cannot relieve themselves if too many people or horses are watching. Someone said they overcame this by crowding around when they knew their horse would definitely pee, and then rewarding him verbally and with treats. Soon the horse was comfortable in all situations, and much happier.
So how can we solve this little horse’s problem? Firstly, by changing his routine slightly so that he is given more opportunities to urinate in the afternoons and evenings, and provide a deeper, bigger bed. And then hopefully he’ll begin to relieve himself more frequently and so reduce the chances of getting an infection of some sort.