Friday, March 26, 2010

Horse Health Care – Spring and Summer Coming, Remember Water and Salt

With the start of Spring, especially in the Southern portions of the Country, and then inevitably the hot Summer following that, your horse’s water and salt needs are going to increase.

I have seen more than my share of algae and dirt ridden stock tanks or water buckets. One of the biggest causes of inadequate water consumption by horses is poorly palatable water. One of the is the simplest things you can do to ensure your Horse’s health is protected is to provide fresh clean water – at all time.

At rest in a moderate temperature, a horse will drink about ½ to 1 gallon per 100 pounds of body weight per day. A 1,100 pound horse will therefore drink 5.5 to 11 gallons. This is the very low end of a Horse’s water requirements.

Various factors will affect the amount of water a horse needs like: Temperature; amount of dry forage consumed as well as type and amount of other feed; exercise or activity level; and, overall physiological health of the horse. The more the horse is worked, the hotter the temperature the more water that horse will need to consume. Lack of water probably produces more deaths, more rapidly than lack of any other item. During 100 degree heat, a horse can lose 12 to 16% of his body weight, over a 2 ½ day period without water.

What is interesting is that horses, in hotter temperatures, will not drink very much more water at any one time, they will just drink more frequently.

I have ridden horses hard, covering 20 miles or more in 100 degree heat, and then have had that horse refuse a drink when I have offered it. As with humans, thirst or lack of thirst is no indication of dehydration level.

Usually I feed early in order for the horse to finish his feed then drink prior to the start of the day so he can be as hydrated as possible before I ask too much out of him. If I am anticipating a hard day or a long ride, I’ll also soak a hay net full of grass hay in water and let my horse eat that prior to the start of the day, or eat while in the trailer going some place.

A horse that is dehydrated will have dry mucous membranes such as indicated by a blanch test of his gums. Use your thumb to put pressure on the gums as this pushes blood away from the tissue. When you release, blood should refill quickly and the gums should go back to a normal color within a second or two. This is called “capillary refill”. Slow capillary refill indicates possible dehydration.

A pinch test of the skin along the neck can also give an indication of a horse that is dehydrated. This is another example of capillary refill. The faster the skin lays flat the more dehydrated the horse is. If the skin you pinched stays “tented” then yur horse may be dehydrated. A colicky horse may also appear and be dehydrated as available water in the system is pulled away from the periphery and pushed to the gut to deal with the blockade.

Most feeds do not contain the Sodium (salt) needs of even the inactive horse. Free choice Salt, through a salt block, should also be available to the horse. This is generally the only salt that needs to be added to the diet as horses will consume enough to meet their needs.

There are generally three types of Salt or Salt-Mineral blocks:

White block is plain salt, sufficient for most horses;

Light red block is generally Iodized Salt;

Dark red or brown block is trace-mineralized Salt.

It has been my experience that most horses prefer a plain salt block (the white one). I have tried various blocks and found that most horses do not like the iodized or trace-mineralized salt blocks. You can buy the blocks in small bricks as opposed to the 50 lb blocks to test and see what your horse will use. It’ll take a week or two to see which block they’ll lick most.

Stay on top of dirty stock tanks and water buckets. Give your horses fresh clean water and you’ll reduce potential for problems. Safe Journey.

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