Around the Water Trough

Basics of Sweating and Electrolytes

Shannon Habenicht

By Emma Ford | World Class Grooming

Why do horses sweat?

Horses sweat as a means to cool down and reduce their internal temperature. Sweating can be caused by high temperatures, exercise or from pain. (For the purpose of this article, sweating from exercise will be the main focus.) During exercise the muscles will produce heat which the horse tries to regulate through his breathing and skin. The blood carries the heat to the lungs to dissipate and then to the skin where it can radiate from the body. If the amount of heat buildup is more than can be regulated this way, then the horse’s internal organs start to heat up. At this stage the horse starts to sweat to aid by evaporation and the cool down process.  

Sweat mainly contains water plus minerals, the major ones being sodium, chloride potassium, calcium and magnesium, also known as electrolytes. These are required in part to regulate muscle function, if there is an imbalance of these minerals then muscle fatigue will occur. How much your horse sweats depends on ambient temperature, level/type of exercise and fitness level of you horses. In prolonged exercise periods, especially if hot weather, horses can lose up to 10 to 15 liters of fluid in an hour. These fluids need to be replaced for your horse to feel relaxed and fit the next day.   

Emma and Z cooling out Kentucky Three Day Event 2018 | PC: JJ Sillman

Emma and Z cooling out Kentucky Three Day Event 2018 | PC: JJ Sillman

One sign to be aware of if your horse is struggling to regulate his temperature can include heavy breathing or panting, this is a sign your horse is trying to cool down by faster breathing, very often this can lead to “heat stroke” if not corrected quickly. The internal temperature can rise to a dangerous high between 106* and 110*, if left for too long, internal organs can be damaged along with disruption to the digestive tract. Knowing how hot your horse is after exercise and how fast he typically cools out under “regular” weather/type of exercise conditions is important to determine. A horse fit enough for what is being asked of him should be able to drop his temperature by 1 - 2 degrees and breathing rate by approximately 20 beats within the first 10 - 15 minutes of cooling down.  

Fernhill Cubalawn giving us his opinion of a hose off!!

Fernhill Cubalawn giving us his opinion of a hose off!!

A horse over sweating and panting is an easy candidate for being dehydrated. Under these circumstances cooling out with cold water is very beneficial to decrease temperature by evaporation. Finding shade and a breeze, maybe fans, can be very beneficial to cool horses down faster, especially if it’s humid. Allowing your horse to drink water is a must. There are different schools of thought of whether you should allow small quantities at a time or let the horse drink what he wants. Allowing him to drink a gallon of water at a time is going to do more good than harm. In cooler climates, but when your horse has worked hard, offering tepid warm water will sometimes encourage your horse to drink more than cold water.

Should your horses continue to show signs of heavy panting and increased temperature after half an hour of cooling then a vet should be consulted as soon as possible.

Should you add electrolytes you might ask. Not all horses need supplemental electrolytes. If clean fresh water, quality forage and a good fortified feed is being utilized then most horses do not need a supplemented source of electrolytes. They expel the minerals they don’t need so feeding extra does not make sense. How much your horse sweats during exercise is the best gauge of whether electrolytes are needed. If your horse sweats, then replenishing with just water isn’t enough. That would only dilute the remaining minerals available for the required body functions. Should your horse feel muscle stiff and sore the day after a hard workout, the likelihood is that his electrolyte balance was incorrect. Using the skin pinch test can be an indication of dehydration, if a small section of skin is held and then released it should spring back into place. Remaining tented can be a sign of dehydration. 


Quality named brand electrolytes are abundant in stores or you can use table salt mixed with lite salt at a 3:1 ratio. If you choose a paste rather than powder, giving a small quantity of hay/feed prior can reduce irritation of the stomach.

If your horse is a non-sweater, also known as anhidrosis, this can be a huge problem as he will have a very hard time regulating his temperature. You should consult your vet if you think this could be an issue. Practical advice for this issue includes riding in the cooler parts of the day, making sure your horse has adequate shade and ventilation in his paddock and stall, plan your fitness schedule around the weather, and don’t gallop on extremely humid days. Cooler climates can help to ‘reset’ the body and initiate sweating again. 

Tips for encouraging drinking on long hauls.

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Horses often lose fluid whilst traveling, they may not sweat but the stress of travel can be hard on their bodies. Hydration is key for a fit arrival. Taking your own water from your barn can sometimes help with picky horses and adding carrots and apples is a good “go to”. Adding a handful of sweet feed or using a known product such as Thirst Quencher can be helpful for some horses to get their noses in the water bucket. Soaking a hay net for at least 10 minutes can add water intake, as well as feeding small “sloppy” mashes during long haul if needed. 

Hope you enjoy a HYDRATED rest of your summer!

Summer Skin Issues

Shannon Habenicht

By Emma and Cat | World Class Grooming | @worldclassgrooming |

It’s summertime, your horses might be getting night turn out, they are getting regular baths after being ridden, on humid days they are sweating just standing there. Are you seeing more skin issues, are they losing hair on their faces, do girth rubs seem to be occurring, are you continually dealing with scurf on legs and pasterns, are hives appearing more after rain?  What can be done, if anything, to help solve these issues?  

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Maintaining an environment that inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungus is critical when dealing with summertime skin problems. A wet, warm environment is all that is needed to enhance the growth of these pesky microorganisms. Drying your horses after bathing is an easy solution to maintaining a dry environment. Always towel dry the legs and face after bathing, paying attention to the face crevices, behind the elbows, front of cannon bones, tendons and back of the pasterns. If possible, hand graze your horse until he is dry, checking his belly is dry before bringing him in. If the wash stall is outside and time is short you could leave him to snooze whilst you tidy up equipment and clean tack. On wet days you can safely position free standing fans in front of your horse whilst standing on cross ties to help dry legs. Everybody’s barn situation is different so do what works best for you. 

Do not shampoo your horse every time you bathe him. Have you ever noticed that retired horses that live outside and look unkempt don’t suffer from the same skin issues that your beautifully cared for horse does? This is because the horse’s natural skin and coat provides defense against such issues.  Bathing everyday with shampoo removes the horse’s natural oils and therefore defense to fight against bacteria and fungus. Keep the shampoo for special occasions, such as pre-shows or lessons. Using natural products, such has Shapley’s Medicare shampoo which contains Tea Tree and Lemongrass, is a great to help treat scratches and rain rot. It is gentle on the coat, leaving a healthy natural shine. If daily shampoo is required, this is the “go to” shampoo.

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If you have a horse that gets hives easily just from getting turned out in the rain, giving them an Apple Cider Vinegar rinse as soon as they come in from the paddock can often help to neutralize the effect of rain and lesson the appearance of hives. This may not work for all horses but is worth a try.

When it comes to your daily grooming routine, using a good curry and lifting the dirt from the coat is a must. The Hands On Gloves provide a way of getting into all those skin folds and creases that can be great places for bacteria/fungus to grow. Let your horse tell you how much pressure to use when grooming these areas. Because each finger has dimples, you can easily get into eye sockets, tendon groves and elbows where regular curries cannot. 

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Having followed up with a good soft brush, you then have many choices on the market as to how to finish your groom. The most basic is witch hazel, not drying on the skin but is great for picking up dirt and dust. Being an astringent, it can help to lessen the appearance of hives.

Equinature Aloe and Tea Tree Spray is a great product that not only leaves a great finish to coats, but it really helps soothe irritated skin. Used over a few days this product will minimize hives and help to remove unwanted fungus.  

If your horse already has scratches, rain rot or hives...

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Getting down to healthy skin once scabs have developed is paramount. The quicker scabs are removed then the quicker healthy coat can regrow. Shapley’s MTG is the number one product to use for these occasions. If never used before always apply a small amount to a test area to make sure your horse doesn’t react to it. Applying this where needed and letting it soak in for a day is normally enough to soften the scabs and allow them to be finger groomed or curried off. Seriously affected areas might take more time.

Should this be a horse with a heavy coat, clipping away the hair can really help quicken this process. Once you get down to healthy skin, use witch hazel or aloe tea tree spray to clean the area and help prevent further irritation. Try not to let the skin get too dry, this will only cause more micro abrasions for microorganisms to take advantage of. Applying MTG or Equinature Skin Mend can really help skin to return to good health and encourage hair growth.  

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Sometimes referred to as dew poisoning, cracked skin on the back of pasterns is very common in horses that spend periods of time on wet grass. To prevent this problem applying a zinc-based cream to the back of pasterns before night turn out can be useful. Equinature Zinc Cream contains Tea Tree which is an added barrier against fungal infections.

We hope these few tips help you to maintain your horses skin health this summer!

World Class Grooming

Shannon Habenicht

If you haven't heard of Cat Hill and Emma Ford by now this is your chance to get to know them. In 2015, they had their first book published by Trafalgar Square Books titled World Class Grooming for the Competition Horse.  It became an overnight success soon reaching the number one spot of equestrian selling books. But who are these ladies?

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Cat Hill grew up in Central New York.  Her love for horses first started when she was given a pony for her birthday.  From 4H, Arabian horse showing to riding hunters for her Intercollegiate Horse Show team at the Geneseo University, Cat has gained a vast wealth of experience within the horse industry. Cat followed her love of horses to Ireland, where she quickly became barn manager at the Mullingar Equestrian Centre working with show jumpers and eventers.  On returning to the states she would groom for professionals within Grand Prix dressage, show jumping as well as the AA Hunter circuits. Having found her passion for three-day eventing whilst grooming for advanced event rider, Craig Thompson, Cat would move onto managing former Olympian Mara Deprys operation.  Now married with 3 children, Cat runs a busy life between taking care of her family, working as a freelance groom, teaching, preparing to write another book and continuing to grow the World Class Grooming business alongside Emma.

Emma Ford originates from North Devon, in south west England.  Growing up on a farm, with her dad as a Master of Foxhound of the local pack, Emma was in the saddle before she could walk.  She grew up through the Pony Club system, competing on all championship teams and gaining her B rating. After finishing her BSC degree in 1997 she decided to travel to the states to work in an eventing operation before returning to “the real” world.  Twenty years on, Emma has a created a life, a living and a name for herself as one of the top eventing grooms in the states. Currently working for Phillip Dutton, Emma has been to numerous top-level three-day events, including, Kentucky, Burghley, 3 Olympics, 4 World Equestrian Championships and 2 Pan American Games.  

How did the book come about? Cat and Emma first met in 2006 when Mara DePuy, Cat’s employer at the time, was taking lesson from Phillip.  In 2007, both riders made the Pan American team, so between team training and 10 days in Rio Janeiro, Brazil, a close friendship was formed between Cat and Emma.  As in all disciplines, grooms always get together and talk about their work life, what needs improving, how to get good barn help. When Cat was approached in 2012 by Trafalgar Publications about the possibility of writing a book on grooming for beginners through professionals, asking Emma to be co-author was a no brainer.  At the time Emma was changing her career path, moving from Phillips large operation into a smaller young rider barn. This would give her the time needed to help write the book. Having well documented photographs was going to be key to the book’s success. Fortunately, at the time, Cats sister-in-law, Jessica Lynn was looking to expand on her photography business.  Jessica, not being a horse person in the slightest, was a blessing in disguise. When trying to show through photos the step needed for each task, Jessica would portray it from an unknown aspect, knowing that if she could understand what the photos were trying to explain, it hopefully translate well to the future readers. 80% of the photos you see in the book were taken during a major photo shoot in the summer of 2013, held at Emma’s then employers barn in Virginia.  Following the shoot, the girls split up writing the chapters and would pass them back and forth to ensure all tasks, tricks and tips had been covered. When it came to editing - Cat was at the helm. The first edit came back with some serious red ink all over it! It was very daunting, but by the end of the summer 2014 the book had gone to print.

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World Class Grooming for the Competition Horse was officially released in March 2015. Since then it has remained a best equestrian seller as well as having been released in French and Japanese. In 2016, Emma and Cat formed the World Class Grooming, LLC.  Their mission is to bring as much knowledge and experience into the horsemanship aspect of owning, riding and competing horses at any level or discipline. They aim to teach that through hard work, patience and time the bond between horse and his or her caretaker can only strengthen. They now offer clinics, seminars, Pony Club rating preps and barn staff training around the USA.  

Emma and Cat are going to be answering a question, asked by our readers, each month on “Around the Water Trough.” So now is your chance to ask the professionals for answers regarding anything horse related.

To start us off, Emma has provided a tip for this month:

Managing to keep a healthy tail during the summer months and fly season can be problematic for some horses.  We are always wanting a more full and thicker tail. I like to moisturize my tails weekly with a deep penetrating conditioner such as Shapleys Natural Elegance.  I like to keep spray detanglers for show days only, so the hair doesn’t dry out. By using a conditioner, the hair is less likely to break when used to get rid of flies.  A well moisturized tail will also take up less stain than a dry tail. For those super dry tails, try doing a deep conditioning treatment by wrapping the tail in seran wrap or a plastic bag for 20 minutes before washing out the moisturizer.  Try to only finger groom tails, keep the comb or brush for special occasions. Happy Grooming!