July 27, 2021
In this article, award-winning educator Julie Goodnight talks horse hydration. Julie offers guidance to horse enthusiasts in articles and through clinics and appearances. She teaches horsemanship domestically and internationally, and was named Exceptional Equestrian Educator by Equine Affaire.
Too often I’ve seen horses that don’t drink enough water experience bouts of colic and mild digestive upset. Providing horses regular access to fresh clean water is important—especially for those that are finicky.
No matter what you do with your horses, or where, water must be a top priority. Here are tips I use to help my horses stay hydrated at home and away.
When I led big pack trips through the Rocky Mountains, we made sure to take trails that bordered streams and that the horses were allowed to drink each time we crossed a stream. The experienced and wise trail horse drinks at every opportunity because he doesn’t know when the next opportunity will come.
When we take our horses on the road, I make sure they have water breaks if they're in the trailer more than a few hours. We also carry water from home, just to make sure it is familiar and tempting.
When horses are at home in the pasture, I make sure everyone knows what gates should stay open to allow horses access to water tanks. Horses need constant access to water.
Even if you offer water consistently, some horses will still refuse to drink enough. What can you do to ensure your horses keep drinking—especially when you have one that doesn’t want to?
Salt is a necessity in a horse’s diet. You know if you eat a bag of salty potato chips, you’ll crave a drink. I wouldn’t eat chips unless I had my water bottle in hand.
The same is true with horses. Giving salt encourages horses to drink more. Salt plays a vital role in hydration (water retention), muscle contraction, and contains nutrients and minerals vital to digestive health.
Drinking more water helps your kidneys keep the appropriate amount of electrolytes in the bloodstream. Proper hydration also positively impacts blood pressure. The same is true for horses.
Salt also plays a role in digestion by helping break down food and by increasing hydrochloric acid, which lines the stomach walls and aids in the digestion of food.
Salt deposits are found in nature, and wild horses will find them in their foraging areas if left to roam.
With domestication and confinement, it's up to horse owners to provide a quality salt source like Redmond Rock, since horses can't go looking for it on their own. Whatever salt you choose, make sure your horse has daily access to it and fresh, clean water.
Most horses will voluntarily consume salt in the quantities they need. There are always, however, a few high-maintenance horses whose salt consumption must be monitored. (Read this blog for tips to decrease your horse's salt intake. )
No two horses are alike—and neither is their water consumption. Here are four suggestions to ensure your horses keep licking salt and drinking water no matter where you are or what kind of horse you have.
Before we leave on a trip with our horses, we package their daily grain ration and supplements in a baggie—one for each day (or two baggies if they get grain twice a day). I always add a little loose mineral salt (Redmond Rock Crushed) to each baggie to ensure each horse is drinking well and we don’t have to carry around a salt lick.
I know some horses that just won’t lick a rock. Of course, these seem to be the same horses that don’t drink enough. For these horses, I like to top-dress their feed with Redmond Rock Crushed loose mineral salt every day.
Since horses are generally very good about monitoring their own salt intake, I don’t want to force too much salt on them. Start with about a half an ounce and monitor horses' water intake and urine output (how much shavings are you going through?). If horses still need to drink more, add a little more salt to their ration.
Some horses feel stress more than others and lead a very physically and mentally stressful life. Research has shown that many of these horses are prone to ulcers, which may manifest as poor appetites, decreased energy, lackluster attitude and colic-like symptoms.
Horses prone to ulcers may be reluctant to consume salt, but still need some in their diet. My number one horse, Dually, falls into this category. For him, I feed Redmond Daily Gold, a clay-based salt-and-mineral supplement that helps neutralize stomach acid buildup and improves appetite and digestion.
Some horses won’t lick a salt rock on the ground, but if you hang it up on a fence, they'll enjoy it more. Hanging a salt rock (put it near the horse's water bucket to encourage drinking), makes it an enticing toy and keeps it clean. Some picky horses won’t lick a rock on the ground if it's dirty.
Remember, to keep horses hydrated, give them daily access to fresh, clean water and provide a quality salt source. Enjoy the ride!
- Julie Goodnight
Want to try the Redmond products Julie mentioned? Click the buttons above to purchase a hydration sample pack or other products!
For more information about Julie Goodnight, visit her website juliegoodnight.com.
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