Can I let my horse drink right after exercise?
The answer is clear - YES. It’s a myth, old wives tale, nonsense, false info, bad 411 to withhold water after your horse exercises.
During exercise, your horse heats up as his muscles work. He will sweat, and his internal body temperature will rise. He will lose water and electrolytes and salt via his sweat. Now - in order for his brain to register thirst, the salt concentrations in his blood must be high. But, sweat contains so much salt that sometimes during exercise the concentrations of salt in his blood can become low - which means no drinking desire.
Dr. Clair Thunes from Summit Equine Nutrition points out that “This is an old wives tale - to stop your horse from drinking after exercise. Watch the horses coming out of the desert after FEI endurance races those horses get to drink as much as they want as soon as they want while they are still dripping sweat. Withholding water can reduce the total amount the horse drinks.” This can lead to dehydration (which is bad).
It’s also known that the desire to drink goes down after exercise (especially outside of a 15 minute window after your horse has finished his workout).
The bottom line is that right after exercise, his thirst instinct is highest, then it starts to taper off. Now is the time to allow him to drink.
It’s absolutely untrue that withholding water after exercise is a good thing - in fact, the opposite is true. Allow your horse to drink when you come back to the barn. A few gallons, even. The only exception may be a horse that has just had some serious conditioning work - like an event horse galloping or a race horse. Even then your Veterinarian can advise you on the best course of action.
That's one way to do it.
One more piece of wisdom about horses and water. Horses prefer to drink cold water, but they will drink more water that is warmer or room temperature. This may help you decide what to offer him after exercise. If he need coaxing, go for cold. This article also has loads of ideas on how to tempt your horse to drink!
To make things easy for you - you can hang a bucket or two in the cross ties to let your horse drink as soon as you come back to the barn. Then he can grab some water when he’s most thirsty and he doesn’t have to wait for you to untack, ice, groom, etc. before he goes back to his house or paddock.
How do you make it easy for your horse to drink after exercise?