Enhancing Fluid Rehydration by Increasing Voluntary Drinking after Exercise

After a horse has undergone strenuous exercise it is important to replace the water and electrolytes lost in sweat to prevent any medical problems that may develop during the recovery period, and to ensure the horse’s ability to perform future work.

Practical recommendations for increasing fluid intake and recovery include:

  • Allow horses’ free access to rehydration fluids after exercise — horses are unlikely to drink a volume greater than their stomach capacity in the initial few minutes after exercise.
  • Encourage voluntary drinking during early recovery especially for horses who are transported shortly after finishing a competition.
  • Provide salt water as the initial rehydration fluid. Salt water results in a greater total fluid intake and recovery of body weight loss during the first hour of recovery compared to plain water.
  • Offer an initial drink of salt water at 20oC, at a concentration of 0.9% NaCl, at rest breaks and after completion of exercise, followed immediately (within a few minutes) by plain water at 20°rees;C. This is an effective strategy to increase the total volume of fluid consumed during the first hour of recovery.
  • Complete rehydration may take a couple of days and the ingestion of several feeds to fully replace the electrolytes lost in sweat.
  • Monitor the horse’s condition during the 2–3 days after strenuous exercise to prevent any delayed-onset medical problems that can develop during this time.

Reference: H.C. Schott II, P. Butudom, B.D. Nielsen, S.W. Eberhart (2003) Strategies to Increase Voluntary Drinking After Exercise, In: 49th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, 2003, New Orleans, Louisiana.