If your horse refuses to drink water along the trail, you can use electrolytes in controlled conditions to increase his thirst and encourage him to take that first important sip. Here's how:
- Pick a day that's not too hot (about 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit), and a trail with a known water source that's about one-half to 1 hour away.
- Just before you set out, give your horse one dose of electrolytes formulated for horses. (Note: I recommend using the paste form, as is easiest to administer and comes in a handy, one-dose syringe.)
- Ride to the water source, and encourage your horse to drink. The dehydrating effect of the electrolytes combined with his exertion should cause him to drink immediately.
- If your horse doesn't drink, ride him on a half-hour loop, and circle back to the stream.
- Repeat this loop until your horse finally drinks. Take as much time as necessary. After your first success, he should drink from a stream without a problem.
Greg Fellers, DVM, a graduate of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, has been a large-animal practitioner (primarily horses) for almost 30 years. A member of the North American Trail Ride Conference and the American Endurance Ride Conference, he's been "vetting" rides for 20 years, including the Tevis 100 Mile Ride. He co-owns Loomis Basin Large Animal Services, in Loomis, Calif.
This article first appeared in the August 2000 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.