Whether we like it or not extreme weather events are now becoming more common, and our horses and other animals need special care to cope with these ever changing conditions.

Ensuring horses are well hydrated is at the top of the list, which means they must have access to good quality water, in containers which encourage them to drink, adequate provision of salt and electrolytes and protection from the elements, especially the sun.

A horse needs to consume 10% of its bodyweight daily in hot weather to maintain optimum hydration.   So for an average sized horse (500 kg) that is 50 litres!

Troughs and water containers should be kept scrubbed out regularly so that the water in them is kept invitingly clean. Horses will often not drink enough water for reasons other than lack of cleanliness. The main culprits are automatic waterers in stables and yards and water in plastic buckets, especially small ones. Horses drink better if containers are large, and this also helps to keep the water cool in hot weather. Concrete troughs or old bath tubs or laundry tubs make good water containers.

It is important to realise that plastic is not inert. Test this by filling a plastic container with water and leaving it all day in the sun, it will taste of plastic in that time.

Mains or town water can be made more palatable to horses and increase their consumption by the addition of dolomite, bentonite or zeolite at the rate of 1 tablespoon to 20 litres. These clays will filter out much of the fluoride and chlorine.

Horses usually love dam water, because it contains minerals in their natural form, but during drought times, when dam levels are getting very low, horses and other stock should not be allowed to drink from them, as not only will the water be dirty or contaminated, it could be highly acid or highly alkaline, both dangerous.

Dehydration is a common problem in performance horses. In extreme weather conditions horses just standing around in paddocks, yards or stables, can easily become dehydrated.

Even though horses have a great ability to sweat and therefore dump heat, there is a limit. In hot and humid conditions the effectiveness of their cooling mechanism is taxed to the highest degree.

The important minerals in electrolyte balance are sodium, potassium and chloride. Sodium and potassium work in harness. The ratio is essential for hydration balance, kidney health and pH (acid/alkali) balance.

The kidneys are responsible for removing wastes from the body via fluids so if there isn’t enough sodium, dehydration will result. If there is too much sodium there will be fluid retention.

Sodium in its natural form alkalises and is not retained in body fluids, while common salt (synthetic sodium chloride) produces an acid state with excess being retained in fluids. Feeding common salt is certainly not the way to get these two essential minerals into the horse’s body.

The best way to provide salt to horses is to give them free access to large lumps of Himalayan natural rock salt, which looks like pink quartz. When extra salt is needed, Himalayan rock salt granules and/or sea salt can be added to the feed. Feeding rate 10 g per day ponies, 20 g average sized horse, 30 g larger horses. Can go higher with in very hot weather especially if they are being worked.

Caring for Horses in Extreme Weather Victoria Ferguson

Himalayan rock salt contains not only sodium and chloride, but also calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, boron, potassium, zinc, selenium, iodine and a plethora of nano minerals.

Apple Cider Vinegar being high in potassium is also ideal to add to water to dampen down feeds along with the salt to give a good basic electrolyte mix. Feeding rate is 15 ml per 100 kg bodyweight.

A good natural electrolyte mix as an addition is 10 litres of water with 4 tablespoons of molasses, 250 ml apple cider vinegar, and a tablespoon of rock salt granules (or sea salt) diluted in it. Molasses is high in calcium and magnesium as well as B group vitamins.

SUN PROTECTION WITH BREWER’S YEAST

PABA (paraminobenzoic acid) is a component of folic acid (aka Vitamin M) which protects natural hair colour and protects the skin from ultraviolet damage. Natural feed sources of this vitamin are Brewer’s Yeast and raw wheat germ. Brewer’s Yeast is an important component of the VF Natural Diet, not only for PABA, but also B group vitamins and chromium which is a very important digestive mineral. Brewer’s Yeast also acts as a prebiotic, a fabulous package.

Old fashioned Zinc cream is handy to protect pink noses and for horses especially those with a lot of pink skin, suitable rugging and fly masks are essential.   Even better are well designed shelters or access to stands of protective trees.