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World Horse Welfare's Top Tips For Keeping Horses Hydrated In The Heat
This year, temperatures have already soared into the high twenties. If you are considering travelling your horse for any reason, read up on our top tips:
- Is travel essential? Transporting horses in very hot weather should be avoided if possible or if it is essential then consider travelling during the cooler parts of the day or overnight if you can.
- Plan ahead: Before setting off, it’s important to ensure horses are given unrestricted access to forage and water for at least six hours with plenty of space to rest and relax.
- Route planning: When you are planning your route try to make sure you have designated safe stopping points where you can check horses and provide water if necessary.
- Be vigilant for delays: Even small road delays extend a journey and in hot weather can cause additional stress for your horse. Keep an eye on traffic information and plan possible alternative routes that you can use in case of delays or problems on the road.
- Good ventilation: Make sure that your vehicle offers sufficient ventilation for your horses and that vents are opened to maximise air flow.
- Prepare for the worst: Whilst it sounds pessimistic, when travelling by road you just never know when or for how long you might get held up, so make sure you have plenty of forage and water on board to keep your horses happy and healthy.
- Know the signs: A dehydrated horse can deteriorate quickly so make sure you know what symptoms to look out for and can act fast if you spot them. Signs include depression, lethargy, dullness in eyes, dry skin and mouth, darkened gums, decreased appetite, lack of or infrequent urination or defecation and thick, sticky saliva.
- Good quality forage: Access to quality forage will not only maintain a healthy digestive system and provide an ongoing source of energy but also creates a small reservoir of fluid in the horse’s gut to help keep them hydrated.
- Watering intervals: Our research has shown horses should be offered water at least every four and a half hours whilst travelling, or more frequently in hot weather conditions.
- You can lead a horse to water: Anyone who has offered their horse a drink in an unfamiliar place will know that horses can be choosy about the type of container they will drink from and the taste of the water, but it’s important to stress that this doesn’t mean they’re not thirsty. If possible, try and take water from home and provide it in a bucket they are used to drinking from. You can also try flavouring the water with apple juice or offer very wet feed to eat which will help hydrate them.
- Minimise stress: Horses can become dehydrated more quickly when they are stressed or unsettled so try to minimise this wherever possible. Ensure the vehicle is well ventilated and drive carefully to make the journey as comfortable as possible.
- Find shade: When you arrive at your event, try to park in a shady spot. Not only will this give you and your horse a more pleasant place to stand outside the box whilst you are there, but it will also help to keep temperatures inside the box down ready for your return journey.
- Upon arrival: As with pre-planning before a journey, it’s just as important to give plentiful forage and water upon arrival at your destination. If you’re travelling to a show or event then it’s a good idea to make sure your horse has time to relax, eat and drink before competing or beginning exercise.