How To Hydrate

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Supplies, Ranch Life, Rodeo

Temperatures are soaring, high temperature records are breaking, and the forecast is calling for many more weeks of hot weather before summer’s end. Active people like horse owners aren’t content to stay indoors until the weather cools down, so how can we safely enjoy outdoor activities? Hydration is one important piece of that puzzle.


Drink fluids with electrolytes

“Any type of fluid is good, but the best is usually something with electrolytes, like Gatorade,” says Justin Heath, DO, a Family Medicine Doctor at Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, NV.

Dr. Heath also recommends Gatorade G2 and Propel Water for their lower sugar content. Plain water is also great for hydrating, but not all water is considered equal. Filtered water contains no electrolytes, those all-important conductors of electricity that are found in our bodies. Common electrolytes include sodium (salt), potassium, and calcium. Filters commonly used in city water systems remove salt and other electrolytes before the water comes out the tap. Most water purchased by the case in the grocery store is lacking as well.

“If it’s bottled water, it’s filtered water,” says Dr. Heath.

A combination of a sports drink and filtered water can help replenish electrolytes lost to sweat during an exercise or horse training session. Water from a spring or well is also a good option, as both are usually unfiltered.

Drink throughout the day

Attempting to ‘pre-hydrate’ by increasing your fluid intake before engaging in strenuous outdoor activity won’t provide any benefits.

“You need to drink throughout the day,” advises Dr. Heath. “Just take a drink every fifteen minutes.”

Remember to hydrate regularly, and don’t wait too long between trips to the water cooler.

“If you’re already thirsty, it’s too late,” said Dr. Heath. “You’re already dehydrated at that point.”

Clothing choice matters

Your clothing choice can also affect the rate at which your body loses electrolytes through sweating. Long sleeve shirts and pants create convection, or the process of losing heat by air and water molecules moving across the skin. In this case, the water molecules are sweat. The layer of clothing allows the body to reabsorb some of the sweat and its electrolytes. Tank tops and shorts allow more sweat molecules to evaporate.

Hydrate your horse

If you’re out riding and sweating, your horse is also working and sweating. Just like humans, horses need to replace fluids lost through sweating. Be sure and offer plenty of water during your riding session and throughout the rest of the day as well. Water troughs should be clean and full of cool water, because some horses won’t drink if the water is too warm. If you have an automatic waterer with a shallow metal bowl, the water usually gets warm quickly during the heat of the day. In this case, it’s a good idea to offer water in a bucket or larger trough to help encourage your horse to drink, since the water will stay cooler for a longer period of time.

How much water does a horse drink?

According to the Livestock Update from the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the average 1,000-pound horse will drink approximately 10 gallons of water per day. This guideline can help ensure that you provide an adequate supply.

Horses need electrolytes, too

When your horse sweats a lot, they will need to replace the electrolytes they lose. Powdered mixes containing electrolytes are available, but some horses won’t drink flavored water. Even if the package isn’t apple- or molasses-flavored, adding it to a bucket of water will alter the taste. Free choice salt licks are a good option and should be offered year-round. Most horses will lick the blocks enough on their own to meet their electrolyte needs.

Hydrate on the road

Many riders are more active with their horses in the summer months and haul to rodeos, barrel races, trail rides, or shows. Some horses are selective and prefer their home water source to any other – sometimes to the extent that they refuse to drink when on the road. This can be a major problem, especially if the horse is competing and working harder than usual. To prevent dehydration and excessive electrolyte loss with this type of horse, it’s best to pack water from home in a container when traveling.

If you ensure adequate amounts of water and electrolytes are available to both humans and horses, you should be able to enjoy riding throughout the summer. Staying healthy and active is our goal, so get in the saddle and keep that (well) water flowing!

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Supplies, Ranch Life, Rodeo

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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