No horses and ponies can exist without water and some need a great deal. When selecting a paddock for agistment, look at the water supply. Some water receptacles might fill automatically or the paddock might have a dam or pond.
It is most important that you ensure that the water supply is adequate, clean, and fresh.
Some years ago, I had one of my best hacks spelling at a fancy agistment facility out of town. When my father and I visited him we found him almost dead and with no water.
His paddock was on top of a hill and the broken-down watering system was unable to gravity-fill his basin. To my horror, no-one seemed very concerned.
In stables, horses need clean, fresh water at all times, and with summer on the way and continuing hot spells imminent, dehydration seems to be a particular problem.
Nothing causes horses greater distress than water shortage.
Dehydration is a common condition in horses trained in the hot weather during summer. Some need up to 40 liters a day.
Although dehydration can result from insufficient drinking water, other causes are heavy sweating, electrolyte imbalances, and large amounts of dry feed, stomach problems and diarrhea.
The most obvious and early symptom of dehydration is the loss of elasticity in the horse’s skin.
A good test is to pinch a section of the skin (usually on the neck) and see if it returns quickly (two to three seconds) to its original shape.
If it does not, the horse could be dehydrated.
Other symptoms are lethargy, reduced performance, sunken eyes, reduced sweating, and the passing of small amounts of thick urine.
Dehydration has been a major problem in transporting horses over long distances, and in summer, riders and their mounts travel many kilometers to shows and events.
If you are considering a long journey, you can arrange for your horse to have a saline drench the day before as a precaution.
Saline is a special mixture of electrolytes, or salts, and water.
If you are aware that your horse will not drink away from home, arrange for a veterinarian to administer such a drench at the show.
Alternatively, electrolytes in the feed or water will encourage your horse to drink.
Research recommends that if dehydration is a result of hot conditions, increase ventilation and airflow in stables, train the horse in the evenings, hose down two to three times daily (ensure to scrape off in 30 seconds to encourage evaporative cooling) or swim the horse if possible.
It is advisable to carry a thermometer and check your horse’s temperature while traveling.
If the temperature is above 30 degrees Celsius, cool the horse with drinks and a hosing.
If the temperature does not drop, call a veterinarian. An elevated temperature can be early warning signs of a virus or other problem.
Another transporting problem stems from tying up your horse too short in the float or truck. Experiments at Sydney University have shown that in these circumstances respiratory problems can begin.
On long distances, the horse should be removed from the float and allowed to walk around and lower his head to the ground every five hours.
In hot weather, owners should make sure the horse has ample clean, fresh water in the stable and check the paddock each day.