(The function and vital importance of water in feeding horses.)
lasting good health and performance efficiency of horses is also a subject to a
proper watering off, because water facilitates digestion and helps the
absorption of nutrients (“water digests”). Drinking water is therefore
an essential factor in breaking down the food, while it is also a regulator of
the animal’s body temperature.
For watering off the horse can be used spring, creek or
even river water, but not too hard, providing these sources are not
polluted. It is also very important to pay attention to the watering
equipment in the stables and in turnouts (buckets, troughs etc.), to keep
them clean and free from pollution. Water from
ponds, especially not those fed by a spring, as well as from other water
holes that are not fed with flowing water, is unsuitable for horses. Water
polluted by urine, feces, industrial waste, germs, parasites, mine water
and in any other way devaluated, must be avoided, because the equine
organism is very sensitive and by digesting a foul water immediately
reacts by breakdown in health.
The daily need of water depends on the age of the horse, on his type
(breed) and the work output, on the season, diet structure etc. During
hard work (performance) and hot weather the need for water is higher. On
the average it figures about 4 – 5% of the animal’s weight, hence a
600 kg (1322 lb) horse needs about 24 to 34 liters (6.5 - 9 gal.) per day. The horse should receive
as much water as he needs to quench his thirst. Too much or too little
water intake will have negative effect on the general health of the
animal, as well as on his performance. The horse must not suffer from
thirst, because with the lack of water he not only eats poorly but also
becomes weak and sluggish. The thirst causes insufficient absorption of
nutrients and the work (performance) output is significantly lowered.
After quenching his thirst, the horse also accepts the food more readily.
Large consumption of water before strenuous work (exercise) is
detrimental, because the horse sweats too quickly, gets tired sooner, and
during cold weather faces the danger of “catching cold”. The hot and
sweated horse is best served with small amount of hay (not alfalfa or
clover) and after he calms down the water is given to satisfy his thirst.
The familiarity with the digestive physiology of the horse is very practical for
any horseman, like the fact that the horse secretes large amounts of saliva,
about 40 liters (10.5 gal.) in one day. The amount of saliva produced by the horse depends
on the types of feeds and the horse’s appetite (greed, desire to eat). The hay
and straw use four times the amount of saliva, while oats and grains only twice
the amount, but with the addition of cut hay (dengie) to the grain three times
the amount. If the horse is fed green forage and juicy root crops like carrots,
the amount of saliva significantly decreases.
As previously mentioned, the horse produces a great amount of saliva; therefore
it is prudent to provide water before feeding to insure sufficient secretion of
saliva and appetite.
According to some authors, the ingested water goes through very quickly between
the full stomach and its walls without significantly diluting its content. This
means that by drinking larger amounts of water the digestive function of the
relatively small stomach is not disturbed or in some way impeded. By drinking,
the content of the stomach increases only 10%, because the water is mechanically
lead through fairly quickly. It gets absorbed fast in the intestines, thus there
are no unfavorable disturbances to the digestive tract, which
would be otherwise noticeable due to the large daily consumption of water by a
healthy horse. The giving of water prior to feeding is important especially when
corn is fed, whether whole or cracked, because the corn kernels, especially old
ones, are very hard, hence they stubbornly resist the effect of digestive
fluids. Besides, the kernel fragments of dry corn can have adverse effects on the
mucous membranes in the digestive tract. The well-watered horse is producing
plenty of saliva, which immediately moisturizes the corn; soaked or steamed
rolled corn is easier to digest.
In conclusion one should take to mind the importance of water management in
horses, the timely (regular) and sufficient watering of horses, especially under
hard working conditions, mainly during hot summer days, when the animal’s
physiological need of water is unusually high.
As the old saying goes: “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make
him drink”. The amount of water that the body is able to retain is closely
tied to the diet and the mineral balance, specifically sodium and other
electrolytes. It is also important to realize that water and electrolytes
function together in the body fluids.
Approximately 70% of the body weight of the horse is made up of water, (about
two thirds of the body in the adult horse and about three quarters in young
foal, 50lb = 6 gallons). The body fluids exist in two major fluid
“compartments”: the extra-cellular or sodium containing fluids, which make
up one third of the body water, and the intracellular fluid, which accounts for
the remaining two thirds. The thirst will cause death in a much shorter time
than hunger. A loss of barely 8 % of body water causes illness and loss
exceeding of 10% can result in serious
dehydration. Horses require an average of
between 6 to 12 gallons (22 – 45 liters) of water per day; the quantity varies
according to the animal, the work, the weather and the diet.
Water is necessary for the following functions:
regulating, i.e. sweating
liquid lost in breathing
which is necessary to get rid of the waste products of the various body
small animals (mice, rats) or birds fall in these
containers in the barn or on the
fields, which often go unnoticed. Further great attention must be paid to
possible pollution by the bird feces, which can be of great health hazard to the
animal.) [Back where I was]
translated by Ludvik K Stanek
a.k.a. Lee Stanek
*The technical aspects of this articles is a translation from the 1953 Special Zoo-Technique - Breeding of Horses
Published in 1953 by the Czechoslovakian Academy of Agricultural Science and certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Written by: MVDr Ludvik Ambroz, Frabtisek Bilek, MVDr Karel Blazek, Ing. Jaromir Dusek, Ing. Karel Hartman, Hanus Keil, pro. MVDr Emanuel Kral, Karel Kloubek, Ing. Dr. Frantisek Lerche, Ing. Dr Vaclav Michal, Ing. Dr Zdenek Munki, Ing. Vladimir Mueller, MVDr Julius Penicka, pro. MVDr Emil Pribyl, MVDr Lev Richter, prof. Ing. Dr Josef Rechta, MVDr Karel Sejkora and Ing. Dr Jindrich Steinitz.