How to get on top of horse dehydration this show season

You can lead a horse to water – But what if they won’t drink? This is the issue faced by many competitors this show season, where horses taken out of their home environment put their “hoof down” on water intake, risking dehydration.

The importance of water to horses for wellbeing

As a general rule, horses need 4-5 litres of water (Per Day) for every 100kg of bodyweight for maintenance. It follows that a 500kg horse would require 20-25 litres of water every day (Minimum). That’s not a small amount and it comes as no surprise that if the “tap is turned off” that it quickly leads to physiological problems. Indeed, if a horse seems lethargic or has stopped eating, the veterinarian should be called to investigate.

Horse drinking water dehydration

Signs of dehydration in horses

Sometimes a sign of dehydration is as obscure as a drop in performance or a slight change in appearance where the horse appears drawn in. Other times you notice (particularly at events) that your horse has barely touched his water bucket and has undergone a more dramatic change in appearance and behaviour.

A common way of testing for dehydration is to gently pinch the skin on the side of the horse’s neck between thumb and index finger. When released, the skin should instantly return to place. In a dehydrated horse, the skin may sluggishly return to place due to depleted water content.

Why are horses more at risk of dehydration at shows or competitions?

For most of us, horse shows are exciting destinations. For our horses, the change in scene can come as quite a shock. They can be over-stimulated by the sights, sounds and smells around them. The feed might be different. The water might taste different. Even the experience of travelling can be upsetting and trigger the horse to put the brakes on water intake.

Excessive sweating can upset the balance of electrolytes and water in the blood, signaling to the horse that it doesn’t need to drink when it in fact does. If your horse is excessively sweating, consider an electrolyte paste such as HYGAIN® RECUPERATE® to reset the balance and encourage water uptake.

If your horse is prone to dehydration at horse shows, there are a few actions available to you:

Upon arrival administer 30ml’s of HYGAIN® RECUPERATE®. This will not only encourage drinking but will also boost energy reserves and speed up recovery post event.

  •  Make sure your horse has fresh water available 24/7. If they are known to be picky about their water, bring water from home. 
  • Add electrolytes to one of your horse’s water buckets to try and encourage water uptake.
  • Start your horse on electrolytes before the competition season to acclimatize them to the taste. Consider keeping them on electrolytes year-round.
  • Ensure a gradual buildup of workload prior to a competition so that your horse is physically prepared.
  • Take your time. Plan your travel to a show so that a long journey allows for recovery time at the destination.
  • If your horse appears severely dehydrated, or if you’re concerned, always call a veterinarian. A veterinarian may administer IV fluids to your horse. 


 Dehydration support for horses

HYGAIN® REGAIN®, is a rapid electrolyte replacer that is formulated for horses to help replace body salts lost during exercise and hot climatic conditions. It aids in the treatment of dehydration, hypochloraemia, and alkalosis.

The formulation of HYGAIN® REGAIN® contains:

Sodium and Chloride: To replace electrolytes from muscle fatigue, muscle damage and dehydration. 

Potassium: To maintain and ensure correct cellular osmotic pressure which affects the sensitivity of nerves and muscles to impulses. Horses suffering from a lack of potassium are prone to fatigue, muscle weakness, exercise intolerance, tying-up and decreased water intake.

Magnesium: Required for muscle function and essential for DNA to send messages to the cells. 

Calcium: aid in muscle weakness and conditions such as tying-up and ‘thumps.’ 

Horse hydration supplement

Need some expert advice on your horse’s diet, dehydration issues or feed options?

Don’t let dehydration affect your horse’s performance and enjoyment of competitions. Reach out to the Hygain Nutrition Team for friendly advice.

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