What Happens When a Horse Sweats
This time of year all over the country temperatures are high, and horses are sweating under the extreme conditions. When a horse sweats excessively, especially during exercise, a special protein called latherin causes lathering. This protein facilitates the flow of liquid to effect evaporation of sweat for a horse. This sweat is a fluid comprised of water and salt. The “salts” are often referred to as electrolytes and include sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. The latherin is what helps your horse sweat and extreme sweating often causes “lathering” between a horse’s hind legs or on its shoulders.
The appearance of sweat is a sign that a horse is losing fluids. Sweat may be thin and watery but during extreme work, the latherin causes a foamy accumulation. Since the escaping fluids are comprised of water and essential electrolytes, it is important to replace what is lost.
The two important components of SWEAT are salts and water. Having these flowing at correct levels in your horse’s bloodstream is like having a full tank of gas and the correct level of oil in your car. The “salts” are responsible for an extensive array of critical body processes including the pumping of the heart, the moving of feeds through the gastrointestinal tract, and the filtering of wastes through the kidneys. Salts also control the fluid balance of the body by regulating the movement of water in and out of cells. Non-sufficient water consumption can cause a variety of health issues. Without sufficient circulating electrolytes and water, horses may be sluggish and prone to colic.
Water constitutes approximately 70% of a horse’s body! Dehydration is the process of losing water and is accompanied by a deficiency of important electrolytes. Water is essential to “keeping it all moving”, therefore encouraging water consumption is a preventative measure. To test for dehydration status simply pinch a section of skin over the shoulder blade or on the neck. If the skin is elastic and returns quickly to its original position, dehydration is not a problem. If the skin is slow to rebound, dehydration has set in to some extent. If you practice this often you will know your horse well and can make an educated assessment each time you check it.
Provided by: Horse Side Vet Guide
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Encouraging Horses to Drink
A horse drinks an average of 7-12 gallons of water per day. There are many ways to encourage water consumption for your equine friend.
- Always have clean fresh water available. Clean water is free of algae, hay, grain, horse apples, and dirt. An easy way to clean water tanks is to fill a bucket with water and add bleach. Pour the contents around the side of the tanks. Let it sit on the bottom. The bleach will kill bacteria and give the tank a fresh smell. Make sure you rinse the tank well before refilling it, since bleach is toxic; if you want to discourage algae formation organically, you can try a small amount of apple cider vinegar.
- Ensure that your water source is easily available to all horses in the herd. If a tank or water source is located in a stall or corner then the passive horses in a herd may not feel comfortable accessing it.
- Check the water temperature. During cold temperatures, it is important to have more than just a hole in the ice. A water heater not only makes water more accessible, it increases the temperature of the water.
- Keep a white salt lick next to your water source. My horses love to eat their grain, lick the salt block and then drink – in that order. Keeping a salt lick near the water encourages salt intake and this encourages drinking.
- Dose your horse with electrolytes before or after extreme exercise. Caution: only give electrolytes AFTER a horse has ingested a good amount of water. Before electrolytes can be given, horses must drink or receive liquids intravenously. I only give electrolytes after I see my horse drink at least eight swallows of water. Giving electrolytes to a horse that is thirsty can be devastating to internal body processes. The electrolyte in the stomach will “steal” water from other organs before being distributed through the body.
My favorite electrolyte paste is Formula 707 Restore. This paste has molasses flavoring so that your horse does not get irritated by the oral dosing, instead it sort of tastes good! Although the paste does include sugar, the amounts of salts in each dose are designed to be appropriate for supplementation. Restore is designed so that each half a tube of Formula 707 Restore Electrolyte paste™ replaces the sodium, chloride, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium lost in a liter of sweat. The tubes are easy to keep in your truck, trailer or barn. Each 60cc tube is good for two servings.
Check out the Restore Electrolyte product and their full line of other horse support products at http://www.buy707.com/ . When you use their products, you won’t be disappointed.
About the Author
Phoebe Bechtolt – I currently reside in Durango Colorado. Durango is in the Four Corners area of southwest Colorado. Living in this corner of Colorado allows me access to riding in three states within an hour drive. Horses have been a passion in my life for 35 years. I currently have seven equines in my care, including a five-year-old mustang in for training, a feisty grade mare I bought eight months ago, a talented Arab/Mustang mare and a blue dun Icelandic pony.