The importance of water quality

  • We tend to take water for granted, but it’s the most important ingredient in the horse’s system, and a horse can go quickly wrong when it’s not right. Even the slightest dehydration affects the horse adversely.

    The average horse is about two-thirds water: in a 550kg horse, about 360kg is water. Sings of dehydration are often not evident until it reaches 6% water loss. For a typical horse this is about 30kg of weight.

    The theory is that a horse drinks 25-70ml per kilo per day, so your average sort horse will drink 14-40 litres. The total will depend on several factors: the amount available, water content and quality of feed consumed, its dietary make up, the atmosphere’s temperature and humidity and the level of activity, plus the general health of the horse.

    Influencing factors

  • Feed: A horse consuming large amounts of grass, which contains 80% water, will drink less than a horse eating hay or dry feedsat 15% water content.
  • Exercise: Moderate work increases water intake by 60-80% whereas intense work can double these figures.
  • Temperature: Water intake will increase by about 20% when the temperature rises from 13 degrees centigrade to 21 due to increased requirements for maintaining body temperature, and greater evaporative losses.

    Increasing temperature also increases the amount of microbial growth so summer water vessels should be checked daily for algae growth.

    Quality check

    Have borehole water quality checked. Your local environment agency officer will oblige and recommend any corrective action required.

    Check header and storage tanks about once a week for dead animals. Rat populations are increasing in the UK – apparently we’re never further than three metres from the nearest rat – and this means they are sharing your water too.

    On more than one occasion poor performance has been linked to water contaminated in this way.

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