We all understand the importance of keeping horses hydrated. This is especially important during the hot and humid months of summer. During heavy exercise they can produce as much as 4 gallons of sweat per hour. Water, however, is not the only thing needed to keep horses hydrated.
When horses sweat they also lose sodium, as much as 4 oz. an hour. When low sodium levels occur, a horse’s body will not retain an adequate amount of water to remain hydrated. Therefore, it is important a horse have free access to fresh water and a sodium source, like a salt block.
Horses that become dehydrated can suffer from illnesses such as colic and heat stroke. They can become lethargic, depressed, not tolerate exercise well or cramp up.
Dehydration Check List For Your Horse
1. Examine Gums: Gums should be moist and light pink. If they are dry or tacky to the touch, your horse may be dehydrated.
2. Capillary Refill Time (CRT): Press your finger against the gums, just above the teeth, until the area loses color. When you remove your finger the color should return within 2 seconds. If not, your horse may be dehydrated.
3. Examine Eyes: Eyes should be bright and alert. If they are dull or appear glazed over, your horse may be dehydrated.
4. Check T.P.R: Temperature, pulse, and respiration should remain within normal ranges. If any are elevated, your horse may be dehydrated.
5. Pinch Skin: Pinch the skin on the neck. It should bounce back quickly. If it stands up for more than a few seconds, your horse may be dehydrated.