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Let's talk water, supplements, stalls...
Let's talk water, supplements, stalls...


One of our major concerns when the horse is stalled is to see that it is receiving enough water.  As we discussed last week, a dry hard stool and a clammy skin are both signs of insufficient water intake.  If this situation is not corrected immediately, we could soon be seeing signs of abdominal discomfort (colic) as the dry stool blocks the bowels.  This blockage traps gas which fills the intestine (usually the large one), causing the horse a great deal of discomfort.  I know this is all you want to hear about this!

When our horse clues us with the above signs we must first determine that water is indeed available.  Most barns have either automatic waterers or buckets that are filled as needed.  The automatic waterers are convenient, and once the horse learns that it is the source of water, it will provide cooler summer water and warmer winter water as needed.

Carrying water in buckets allow us to monitor the water intake of each horse.  They may be a little easier to clean than the automatic waterers.  Keeping them filled, often several times each day, can be labor intensive.  We must remember that the horse is totally dependent upon us for water, so there is no putting off filling those buckets.

If there is no problem with the water suply, we must find why the horse is not drinking.   It may be something as simple as feed accumulation in the waterer.  The feed and hay will drop into the water when the horse drinks.  In this heat, that accumulation ferments rapidly, producing a very unpleasant smelling (and tasting?) solution, which is the horse’s only source of water.  The containers should be cleaned every two or three days during this heat.

With the automatic waterers, we can have the rare malfunctioning heater which will keep water very hot, or the improperly connected electric source which may be giving the horse a tingle when it drinks.  You will of course discover these conditions when you are cleaning the water bowls!

After eliminating the above as deterrents to drinking, we must evaluate the horse itself.  If the appetite is good and it responds well to your workouts, we can probably assume the horse is healthy. The intense heat with the humidity can make the best athlete drag about.  A simple blood test can confirm dehydration, as well as give us clues to any other problem the horse may have.

Once we have determined the horse needs to drink more water, we can start adding a tablespoon of loose salt to the feed each day.  This is in addition to the salt-mineral source in the stall.  You will soon be seeing more signs of urine in the stall as you clean, indicating the salt is working. If the barn has a low ceiling with small doors in each end, the interior will be even hotter and the fluid loss thrrough sweating will be greater.  A horse in this type of stall probably needs electrolyte supplementation along with the salt. There are products available for oral electrolyte replacement.  These products added to the feed are a very economical preventative to colic, and should be used continuously during this heat.  The properly hydrated horse will feel better with an active bowel and sufficient body fluids to sweat for its cooling effect.

Feeding the stalled horse is a challenge, and and it is an important enough subject to devote an entire article in discussion.  I wonder what we will talk about next week?

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