Youngstock and the Heat Wave: Advice from our Veterinarian and Nutritionist Experts

Monday, July 9

Youngstock and the Heat Wave: Advice from our Veterinarian and Nutritionist Experts

We had some great advice from Dr Jane Nixon, our senior veterinarian advisor, about caring for your foals and horses in the current weather conditions and ensuring their best preparation for the Futurity series:

The current excessive hot weather may affect the performance of your youngsters at the Futurity at the end of this month and at the end of August. 

The ground has become so hard that many youngsters, particularly foals are beginning to suffer from sore feet and jarred up joints.

The feet are becoming sore at the toes and the foals if they are at all flat.

Inflammation of the epiphyses [growth plates] is occurring due to jarring of the limbs and beginning to cause limb problems.

We advise care re the length of time your youngsters are turned out, avoid aggressive trimming , continue with careful balanced trimming at regular intervals:


How to look after your youngster’s feet

Have your youngsters feet trimmed 7-10 days prior to the Futurity.

Over the years about 5% foals arrive footsore and withdraw due to hoof trimming too close to the Futurity date and then travelling.


How to avoid dehydration

The second and far more serious problem is dehydration due to water and electrolyte imbalance. Foals in particular have a high surface area to volume ratio and rapidly suffer fluid loss , especially in overheated transport vehicles , insufficient suckling, stress of a new experience,

This is not only a serious welfare issue , but also the youngsters’ body condition score and hence veterinary mark [20% total] will be adversely affected.

We advise :

  • make sure the mare and foal are hydrated before the journey
  • travel when it is cooler
  • use main roads to reduce excessive requirement for balancing
  • allow regular breaks for drinking/suckling/sucking


If you have any concerns please contact :-

Dr Jane Nixon , Futurity Lead Vet on 07713342416 or




Nutritionist Emma Short from Baileys Horsefeeds explains the importance of body salts (electrolytes) and how you can ensure your horse/youngster gets all they need in this hot weather.

When horses sweat they lose vital water and body salts (electrolytes) and prolonged sweating, whether during exercise, traveling or just hot and humid summer days, can result in dehydration, reduce performance, fatigue, muscle cramping and other problems. Therefore maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance is essential. 

Sweating rate can be as high as 10-15 litres per hour which can equate to a significant loss of fluid during a long journey in the horse box and competing. Horses can lose around 10-15g of electrolytes per litre of sweat. 

The main electrolytes lost in sweat are sodium, chloride and potassium. Measurable amounts of calcium and magnesium are also found in sweat. Although forage as well as your bucket feed will provide electrolytes there will only be sufficient to support those at maintenance and more will need to be provided for those who are sweating. 

The body monitors the levels of sodium in body fluids so, when water is lost, the concentration of sodium increases and triggers the horse’s thirst mechanism.  Providing the horse with water alone to replace that lost through sweating can lead to further problems, since the water will be absorbed and dilute the existing levels of sodium.  This then stops the desire to drink, even though the body may still need more water (be dehydrated), and at the same time the kidneys are triggered to excrete water until the sodium concentration is back to normal, compounding the problem still further. 

The most effective way to help replace fluid losses therefore is to provide a solution of water and electrolytes mixed to a concentration which is the same as body fluids (isotonic). This helps the body recover from dehydration by providing fluid without unbalancing sodium levels and thus suppressing the thirst response. 

Supplementing the diet with table salt (sodium chloride) is acceptable on a daily basis as forage should be able to support sufficient potassium intake. As a general rule of thumb supplementing with 10-12g of salt per 100kg of bodyweight should be adequate. However, for those who are sweating excessively or having to travel for lengths of time to your event then it may be preferable to replace table salt with a specific electrolyte supplement. 

Salt can be added in the feed, although if using this method the feed must be made slushy by using water or sugar beet, and water must be offered so as to replace fluids sufficiently.

Ideally electrolyte supplements should be offered in water if the horse will drink them, palatability can be improved by adding flavourings such as apple, blackcurrant and peppermint juice/cordial which helps to disguise the taste, although ensure that the horse is used to drinking the solution before the event. Although salt can be added to a bucket of water it is unlikely to mix into a solution effectively and you may find that it sinks to the bottom and not get eaten. It is also important that a bucket of fresh plain water is also offered so that your horse has a choice. 

Please do note that any that have been sick or who have had diarrhoea that care should be taken and an electrolytes specific for sick horses should be fed along with advice from your vet. 

Emma Short B.Sc (Hons) Equine Nutritionist at Baileys Horse Feeds

Contact 01371 850 247 (option 2) or


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