Ask the Expert: How Can I Keep My Horse Hydrated During Travel?
Ask the Expert: Elisabeth Chizek, Equine Nutritionist
Q: My mare refuses to drink adequate amounts of water when traveling to a show. She also doesn't have interest in her salt block. How can I keep her hydrated?
A: Maintaining proper hydration is especially important for horses traveling for shows, training, or trail rides where even in mild weather exertion can lead to rapid dehydration. An idle horse in cool weather should drink 6-10 gallons of water per day. This can increase to as much as 20 gallons for horses working in hot environments.
Many horses are reluctant to drink "strange" water when traveling off-property. For short trips, bringing water from home instead of using the water at the show may improve consumption. If your horse will eat soaked hay or grain, this may also increase your horse’s water intake.
The current Nutrient Requirements of Horses recommends 100 mg of salt per kg of body weight daily for horses at maintenance. This is higher than the average documented voluntary intake for salt, which ranges from 0 to 62 mg per kg of body weight daily.
Most pasture, hay, and commercial grain products are not a significant source of salt. While it is important to provide free choice salt in a block or loose form for your horse in their stall or pasture, I recommend adding two tablespoons of plain white salt or an electrolyte supplement to your horse’s daily feed. By adding salt or electrolytes to your horse’s feed each day, you won’t have to guess if your horse is getting enough salt or not. It also will encourage your horse to drink more water both at home and away. I generally recommend avoiding sweeteners or fillers in feed or supplements, especially for horses with insulin resistance or for horses who are prone to laminitis.
Elisabeth Chizek, M.S., is an equine nutritionist and owner of Balance Equine Consulting, LLC based in Georgia. Elisabeth graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Animal Sciences, and the University of Florida with a M.S. in Equine Nutrition. She specializes in retraining OTTBs for eventing and dressage. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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