Hoof Nutrition Intelligence is a twice-a-month web segment that is designed to add to the education of footcare professionals when it comes to effectively feeding the hoof. The goal of this web-exclusive feature is to zero in on specific areas of hoof nutrition and avoid broad-based articles that simply look at the overall equine feeding situation.
Below you will find Part 1 of the latest question and answer installment that you can share with your footcare clients.
Q: During these hot days, how much water does my horse need on a daily basis?
By Kathleen Crandell, PhD
A: If you answered, “That depends on the day!” or something comparable, you’d be right. Several factors influence thirst and water intake.
Average idle horses require approximately 7 gallons of water per day. Horses tend to drink in brief episodes, lasting from 10-60 seconds, for up to 20 times a day. Watering system (automatic waterers vs. buckets), temperature, and water quality can alter drinking behavior, as can a horse’s physiological state, work intensity and other factors.
According to recent research, horses usually drink directly after a meal, presumably to correct a physiological normal dehydration caused by water being drawn out of circulation by the gastrointestinal tract. The horse’s large colon can hold a significant amount of water, which allows it to function as a reservoir. Water can move easily between the large intestine and the blood circulation depending on the horse’s needs.
To maintain a sufficient reservoir and adequate volume in circulation, a horse’s water intake must replace its daily losses. Fluid losses occur through urination, defecation, respiration, lactation, sweating and other evaporative channels. Factors such as ambient temperature, diet (forage vs. pasture vs. concentrates), feeding schedule, transport, exercise intensity, age and pregnancy status may also affect how much water a horse must consume to maintain proper hydration.
Feed deprivation, due to imposed fasting prior to a competition or secondary to illness causing anorexia are typical examples that can also decrease water consumption.
Electrolytes should be replenished with fluid losses, particularly anytime a horse sweats. This is especially important for performance horses.
Kathleen Crandell is an equine nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research in Versailles, Ky.
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Click here to read part 2 of the Aug. 1, 2020 installment of Hoof Nutrition Intelligence: Is vitamin C an important dietary ingredient for hoof quality?