If not, you can be in for some serious trouble.  I don’t think we realize how vulnerable dehydration makes our horses to COLIC.  Colic is such a nasty thing that I know we all want to do everything we can to prevent it.  Of course sometimes it happens even with the best of circumstances, but still it’s worth doing whatever we can to prevent it and to be prepared in case it does strike.

Since dehydration can invite colic, especially when combined with other stresses such as a long day on the trail, being in unfamiliar surroundings, being around unfamiliar horses, the long haul getting to the ride, etc., we need to be especially vigilant to prevent dehydration.  Sounds fine.  Ha!  Easier said than done.  Ever heard:  You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.  I bet you’ve not only heard it but have lived it over and over.

Yosemite Sam has always been extremely picky about his water.  He will never drink ‘strange’ water the first day we are away from home.  Toward the end of the second day, he will come around and start drinking.  This is unacceptable.  This means he may go without water for well over 24 hours, while he’s being hauled, and ridden for a full day.  Of course, try explaining this to him.  He doesn’t care.  He just wants his water.

The only exception that I know of to this quirk of Sam’s is a farm somewhere in Northern Virginia (that I have never even seen) that is an antebellum plantation containing a vast apple orchard.  For whatever reason (Marie always said it was all the apples there that somehow flavored the water) he was always more than happy to drink their water immediately.  He traveled there with the Dentons for Pony Club games with James as his person.

So, what’s a responsible person to do?  Wish I had a good answer, but unfortunately I’m afraid it’s one of those things we must resign ourselves to managing rather than fixing.  The good news is there are several things we can do to help.

  • take his water from home!  Definitely not the easiest, for the humanoids anyway, but maybe the simplest for the equines.  This worked pretty well for Sam.  A 60 gallon barrel became standard in our trail rides.  Of course I used the water as well for camping if needed, since I kept the barrel clean while not in use.  When we first arrived, I gave him straight water-from-home.  After the first couple of buckets of that, I would mix in a little of the ‘local’ water to get him used to it.  By the end of the second day, he was ok with ‘local’ water anyway.  If we can keep them hydrated at the beginning, we should be able to ward off the dehydration until they get accustomed to the ‘local’ supply.
  • giving the horse electrolytes is good to both encourage them to drink (think it’s the salt), and to provide necessary salts, sugars, and stuff they need to hold and process the fluids they are drinking.  What electrolytes, how much, and all that jazz is for another whole day.  I’m just sayin electrolytes may help.  They can be given directly from an oral syringe – paste form, added to their water – powdered form, or added to their feed – powdered form.
  • add apple juice or vinegar to the ‘local’ water to disguise it.  Never tried this one but have heard of it often.  Suppose you could add sugar or salt too if it’s easier to pack.
  • add a little mineral salt to their feed, or add a powdered electrolyte – as mentioned above.

I’m sure there are more.  Please share any good ideas you have in the comments.

I definitely like the Quick Tip from Julie Goodnight in the video below.  Be sure to check it out.  Trust me, it IS quick.  No 20 min video.

These are great ideas for back-at-the-barn/camp, but I still do not know of any really good ideas that encourage a horse to drink while actually RIDING ON THE TRAIL.  I guess that just makes drinking while not riding is even more important. If you have any good tips on getting a horse to drink from the trail, assuming you have access to suitable water on the trail, please share in the comments.

Now, here’s Julie G’s tip: