bay horse eats a salt lick, signs of dehydration in horses

How to Prevent Dehydration in Horses

In early August,  68 major cities were forecast to have dangerous levels of heat on one or more days. According to the New York Times, “About  67.1 million people — 20 percent of the population of the contiguous United States — live in the areas expected to have dangerous levels of heat.” 

Chances are high that if you’re a horse owner in one of these areas that the weather has had a big impact on your plans for the summer. The fact is, horses overheat more easily than humans. They sweat  three times as fast as humans, which means they dehydrate more easily if they don’t have access to the water needed to replace what they’ve lost. Plus, the amount of water needed is no small amount. Horses typically need to drink  55 liters, or 14 and a half gallons of water, each day. 

As a horse owner, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with  signs of dehydration in horses. Luckily, many of the signs of dehydration in horses are easy to evaluate, even for new horse owners. 

horses walking in the dust on a hot day, signs of dehydration in horses

First, check your horse’s skin elasticity. The skin of a dehydrated horse loses elasticity. Gently pinch the horse’s skin on their neck above the shoulder. If your horse is well-hydrated, the skin will snap back immediately and disappear. In a dehydrated horse, the pinched skin will form a wrinkle and take up to five seconds to disappear. If your horse is dehydrated to the point where their skin forms a wrinkle, you need to bring them to water immediately and call your vet for advice. 

Poor riding performance is not a well-known symptom of dehydration in horses. A dehydrated horse may have difficulty bending or moving off the leg. They may appear sluggish and lethargic. If this is the case for your horse on a hot day, get off and check for other signs of dehydration in horses, such as capillary refill time. 

Checking your horse’s capillary refill time is an easy way to see if they’re dehydrated. To check capillary refill time, lift up your horse’s lip and gently press the flat of your thumb onto the horse’s gum. It should turn white due to the pressure of your finger. When you remove the finger the color should return almost instantly. If it takes longer than two seconds to return to pink, you should call your vet immediately. 

Keep an eye on your horse’s stall. Take note of what a normal amount of urine looks like for your horse. If you suddenly notice a large decrease in the amount of urine your horse is producing, take note of it and see if you can find a way to increase the amount of water your horse drinks. 

You should also be aware of what “normal” looks like for your horse in terms of how much water they drink. Do they normally finish both buckets? Just one? How often do you typically have to refill their trough? You may notice an increase in how much they drink in hot weather. Be prepared to offer them more water than usual when the temperature increases. If your horse suddenly starts drinking less despite the heat, watch them closely for signs of dehydration in horses. 

Dehydration can quickly become heat stroke if you do not take prompt action. There are several ways you can ensure your horse stays hydrated, no matter the weather. 

adding Redmond crushed salt to grain to prevent dehydration in horses

Have salt available to your horse at all times. Not only will salt help to replace some of the important minerals and electrolytes that are lost due to sweating, but it will also encourage your horse to drink more. If your horse is picky, try having several different types of salt available for your horse. Tie a salt lick, like the  Redmond Rock on a Rope, to the bars of your horse’s stall for them to lick at their discretion. Or you can add a salt supplement to your horse’s feed to prevent dehydration in horses.  Redmond Rock Crushed will encourage your horse to drink and provide them with the essential electrolytes and trace minerals they need. 

How many water buckets are in your horse’s stall? Consider increasing the number over the summer to ensure your horse has access to clean water at all times. You should also clean the buckets on a near-daily basis. Many horses won’t drink enough water if the bucket is dirty. 

blonde woman crouches over a bucket, mixing in Reinwater to prevent dehydration in horses

If your horse is not a “good drinker,” consider flavoring their water.  Redmond Reinwater is an all-natural equine drink mix that encourages horses to drink more. This can come in handy during extreme heat, while traveling, at horse shows, and in stressful situations, such as colic or injury. If your horse is still not drinking enough, consider adding a splash of water to their morning or evening feed to prevent dehydration in horses. 

Preventing dehydration in horses can be fun, too. Get creative and DIY hydrating treats for your horse. Try making horse popsicles by freezing your horse’s favorite treats in ice. This could include apples,  horse cookies, carrots, or mints. Get creative with the liquid you use in your popsicles. Consider adding molasses, applesauce, or gatorade to the popsicles to sweeten the deal for your horse.

Your popsicle can be as big or as small as you want. Medium size popsicles can be placed in your horse’s water bucket to create a cool drink with a surprise treat. Or you can use a bundt pan to create an extra large popsicle and hang it in your horse’s stall with bailing twine. Make popsicles the size of an ice cube to hand feed your horse these nice, cold treats. 

Being a horse owner can be hard work at the best of times. With the extreme temperatures this summer, it takes even more work to make sure our horses are happy, healthy, and hydrated. The right products can make your life easier and allow you to spend less time worrying and more time with your horse.  Shop for all of your equestrian needs on

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