Here British Horse Feeds consultant nutritionist, Dr Tom, offers his top tips on hydration.
1.Give your horse a pinch or a poke! With a well hydrated horse, a pinch or poke depression will fill in almost immediately. The more dehydrated a horse, the longer it takes. If your finger prints remain, your horse definitely needs water.
2. Ensure water is available and accessible! Positioning the water bucket is as important as its fullness. Horses are designed to feed at ground level, so a low water bucket is preferable to a high one. Placing it next to the hay feeder in the stable is good. Outside it is less important as the water content of grass means a trough is for top-ups!
3. Feed wet! The horse grazes on a feed that contains up to 80% water, so dry feed is not natural to its behaviour. Supplementing with a designed soaked feed, like Speedi-Beet or Fibre-Beet, is the best way to compensate for any limitations in water intake. Water intake, integral to feed, is physiologically preferable to a separate drink which should really be a top-up.
4. Pay attention to temperature! A horse can become as dehydrated in winter as in summer. Consider the environment when presenting water. Freezing cold water in winter won’t be attractive; although it may not be practical to have a tepid bucket of water. Preparing soaked feed with warm water will ensure uptake both of the feed and the water.
5. Rehydrate as soon as possible after exercise. It’s surprising how much water a horse can lose during exercise, and it is not always easy to get them to drink whilst cooling down. However, a really slushy mix of a palatable super fibre, like Speedi-Beet or Fibre-Beet, not only rehydrates but also restores gastric integrity.