When at a competition during warm weather, it is important to keep your horse cool in between classes. Horses should be kept in the shade when possible. This can be under a tree or in a well-ventilated trailer or lorry.
If they get overheated when competing, washing or hosing with cold water is advisable. Scraping excess water is helpful as the heat from the horses’ body can heat up the water. When this is left sitting on the skin, it can be counterproductive when the aim is to cool down the animal.
If you suspect your horse is dehydrated, you can try the following test: pinch a little skin on the horse’s neck and wait for it to go back down. If it stays “pinched” for more than a few seconds, the horse may be dehydrated.
Check capillary refill time. To do this, press down on a small area of the horse’s gums with one finger until it turns pale (a few seconds).
Remove your finger and monitor how long it takes for blood to refill those capillaries (turn back to normal colour). If this takes more than a few seconds, this may also be cause for concern.
To compensate for losses from sweating, horses can be given an electrolyte supplement in water, feed or oral paste in a syringe.
Dehydration can lead to impaction colic due to the faeces becoming abnormally dry in the large intestine.
Fresh water should be constantly available so that the horse is never thirsty and always has a steady flow through its intestine and kidneys.
Sprinkling a handful of table salt on to feed can encourage a horse to drink more.
Soaking hay and wetting feed can also help to increase a horse’s daily water intake.