First Aid for Dehydration

t had been hot and dry for over a week. We were increasing the horses? salt intake, cleaning troughs every other day while auto-waterers were refilling with every sip in plastic troughs instead of metal to keep the water cool and refreshing. We were keeping the horses in the barn for shade with 24/7 access to their stalls and 100? paddocks since the pasture had little to no shade. It was a 92 degree day with a scheduled shopping trip with a friend which had been on my calendar for three weeks (living in the country you have to schedule your trips to town since the commute is going to be at least 1 hour one way in good traffic).

It was a lovely morning with my friend and I was just getting in my car to head home when I received a text from my husband with a picture of Benny lying flat out on his side in his stall. I gasped at the sight as it looked like Benny was dying!! I read his text as it described that Benny kept lying down, pacing in and out of his stall and continually lying down, getting up, not eating or drinking. I immediately called Ken, my husband, and he proceeds to tell me that Benny doesn’t seem to have colic as he is having regular bowel movements when he’s pacing, plus he had found lots of fresh fecal matter in Benny?s paddock. I hung up the phone with my mind swirling ?what is going on? and then it hit me DEHYDRATION!! I recalled a time with a horse who had the same behavior. This horse loved apples and carrots, but refused them, kept lying down, wandering around and lying down again. It finally dawned on me that the horse must be dehydrated for which I took a large syringe, a bucket of cool water and began to douse the horse’s throat with water. Within 15 minutes the horse was eating an apple and in 30 minutes was eating hay, drinking water and standing normally. This must be what’s going on with Benny!

I drove 90 MPH home leaning forward in my car gripping the steering wheel as my eyes darted for cops. I thought ?oh boy if I get stopped that could be the end of Benny (losing time), but if I don’t get home now this could be his end too? so I continued to race all the way home and thankfully arrived safely without a ticket.* I flew into the house, grabbed the big horse syringe out of the kitchen drawer while flying into the bedroom to hurriedly change my clothes, donned my boots and rushed out the back door to Benny’s stall. He was breathing hard, lying down, getting up and pacing. I pulled him out of his stall, had my husband hold onto him while I filled a feed bowl of water and drew several syringes and watered Benny’s throat. I checked his pulse which was pounding at 96, but his capillary refill seemed good. I pinched his skin, but it refilled and flattened instantly. I ran for the stethoscope after watering Benny down with 4 more mouthfuls. My husband added natural trace mineral (NTM) salt to the bowl of water and I dosed him 5 more times then I listened to his gut sounds. Benny?s gut seemed faint on the left, but normal on the right. I took his temp which was normal and his pulse had settled to normal by this time. I continued dosing him with water down this throat and gave him a half dose of Banamine just in case this was colic. I made a sloppy red flake bran mash as a precautionary measure and offered it to Benny, but he turned his nose away. I had done everything I knew and now it was time to simply wait so I put Benny back in his stall and watched.

Benny maintained standing on his feet which was a good sign. He sniffed around between the hay and the bran mash, but nothing seemed good to him, yet his behavior was appearing to normalize like no pacing or lying down. I continued to watch and wait offering him an apple and carrot, but no interest yet. Within 30 minutes from the time I dosed Benny with water he took a bite of an apple much to my relief now we’re heading in the right direction yeah. He then turned to his bran mash and started licking the saturated mix phew. Within 60 minutes he was eating his hay and had sucked down all his bran mash, eaten a carrot and the sparkle was back in his eye Woo Hoo, we had just dodged a bullet.

It had been eight years since my last dehydrated horse experience so this was a good reminder that I wish to share:

  • a. Increase your horse’s salt intake during hot weather.
  • b. Soak their hay in water to increase their moisture and watch for unusual behavior.
  • c. Get yourself a big plastic syringe (without the needle) and have it handy so you can dose your horse with electrolytes & water since their throats seem to close off and are unable to drink when this happens.

This can happen after a long dry ride, a horse stuck in a barn for more than 4 hours without water (it happens) or simply hot weather. For Benny the cellular absorption was amazing to witness as the water began to work like magic, and no colic which I give thanks to the bran mash.

*I do not condone breaking the law however when it comes to my horses, my family, I will move heaven and earth when their life hangs in the balance. I know this is a shared feeling amongst my animal loving friends, but again I do not condone my actions so please do not lose sight of the message contained in this article and avoid sending me tongue lashing message lol.

For a high res picture of Benny Down in his stall email or call 888-406-7689.

Nationally recognized horse trainer Missy Wryn developed Training the Whole Horse? on the foundation of Do No Harm. Specializing in Iron Free (bitless-spurless) riding for both English and Western riders, Missy teaches safer communication and control while deepening the relationship between horse and rider. Missy Wryn is also the founder of IRON FREE Riding, HorseMAREship, Sisters of the Saddle, DO NO HARM Today, Stop Poisoning Pets, People & the Planet for Profit, plus inventor of the ALL-IN-ONE Rope Halter Bitless Bridle. Visit for more information or call toll free 888-406-7689.

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