Is My Horse Dehydrated? How to Recognize Equine Dehydration

The hot summer weather has arrived, and, with it, the need to monitor your horse’s hydration more closely than during the cooler months of the year. Dehydration can affect your horse’s performance, damage their health, and also be deadly. Equine hydration requires a careful balance of water and electrolyte intake. To protect your horse from the dangers of dehydration, you should be aware of the signs of equine dehydration and keep a close eye on your horse.

4 Ways to Tell If Your Horse Is Dehydrated

1. Skin Elasticity

When a horse is adequately hydrated, you can pinch its skin and it will snap right back into place. You can test a horse’s hydration level by pinching their skin near the point of the shoulder blade and keeping track of how long it takes for the skin to move back into place. Two to four seconds indicates a moderately dehydrated horse, and any longer than four seconds indicates a severely dehydrated horse.

2. Capillary Refill Time (CRT)

Hydrated horses have pink, moist gums. When you press your finger against the gum tissue, it will leave a white spot behind where the blood has been pushed out of the horse’s capillaries. If hydrated, the white spot will return to a pink color almost instantly. If it takes more than three seconds for the capillaries to refill and the white spot to disappear, then the horse is likely dehydrated.

3. Stiffness

Hydrated horses are more flexible than dehydrated horses. If your horse seems stiffer than usual when stretching, the stiffness could be a sign that your horse is dehydrated. Follow-up with the pinch test or CRT test and an equine veterinarian.

4. Weariness

Dehydrated horses can become confused, tired, and lose the ability to focus. Additionally, a dehydrated horse might not seem thirsty because it might stop drinking or refuse to drink water. If you notice any of these symptoms in your horse, especially when working in hot weather, seek veterinary attention right away.

Equine Nutrition, Hydration, and Wellness With Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley

At Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley, our equine veterinarians are horse hydration experts. We can help you create an environment and hydration regimen for your horse to help promote healthy hydration during summer. Additionally, if you notice any signs of dehydration in your horse or suspect that your horse could be dehydrated for any reason, we strongly encourage you to contact us for emergency equine care right away.

How Much Exercise Do Horses Need?

Horses are active animals, and regular exercise is essential to their physical and mental health. In fact, regular movement actually helps a horse’s circulatory and lymphatic systems work properly, as the contraction and expansion of their hooves under their body weight help to pump blood and fluids up from their legs. So, how much exercise do horses need to stay healthy?

How Much Exercise Do Horses Need?

Put simply, horses require a lot of physical activity to stay healthy and fit.
For comparison, while moving between their grazing pastures and water sources, wild horses can cover as many as 20 to 50 miles every day. Throughout their days, wild horses mostly get slow, steady exercise that’s punctuated with short bursts of more vigorous activity.
Although most domesticated horses won’t cover as many miles during their days, they do need opportunities for moving about every day. Without encouragement, a domestic horse won’t automatically be as active as it needs to be to stay healthy. While most horses might exhibit an initial burst of energy when let out to pasture, they won’t remain active for long. Instead, they’ll likely stand around while they wait to be fed.
To encourage more activity, it’s best to let horses out for grazing in groups. In groups, horses will get the kind of steady exercise they need, walking around for hours. You can also spread out a horse’s hay so that they amble around while grazing, you can take them out for slow walks, or lead them around the pasture.

Every Horse Is Different: Personalized Exercise, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Guidance for Horses

Yes, generally speaking, horses need a lot of daily exercise to stay healthy and keep their circulatory and lymphatic systems operating properly. Every horse, however, is different and will have slightly different exercise needs for maintaining optimal fitness. Additionally, as you increase or decrease your horse’s activity level or change the type or intensity of activity, their nutritional needs can change also. Plus, your horse’s activity level, fitness, and capabilities can be drastically affected by the changing weather through the summer heat and into the cool of winter.
Our equine veterinary specialists at Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley can help you determine the best turnout, exercise, and nutritional routine for your horse based on the season and your horse’s age, breed, fitness, medical history, and purpose. To learn more or to schedule an appointment for your horse, we welcome you to contact our office in Fishkill today.