Hydration Advice

Hot tips for the heatwave

With this hot weather, it’s not only us humans who are feeling the heat. Our equine companions are also vulnerable to these unusually high temperatures, in this light the HPA has sent out a directive to all of the UK clubs with hydration advice (see below). The Vet Insight in the July issue of Polo Times, which will be landing on your doorsteps next week, focuses on the importance of hydration and electrolytes – don’t miss out on what is going to be our biggest issue ever at a whopping 136 pages, click here to subscribe.
“Dear All,
During the current spell of very hot weather please can you remind your members of the importance of ensuring that their ponies are sufficiently hydrated to enable them to cope with the heat. I have copied below an extract from the Notes of the April 2015 Welfare meeting where David Marlin spoke on rehydration. In particular I would draw your attention to the responsibility of Club Welfare Officers, highlighted in part d.
David Marlin, Guest Speaker – Rehydration. David Marlin has worked as a consultant to the British Equestrian team since 1994 and has recently been appointed Performance Advisor to the British Endurance Team. His main areas of professional interest are exercise physiology, nutrition, fitness, training, performance, thermoregulation, competition strategy, transport and respiratory disease. The main points to note were as follows:
a. Dehydration. All muscular contraction creates heat, be it walking around the field grazing or playing polo. A pony has the ability to sweat at a much higher rate than any other animal. The evaporation of sweat is a pony’s major cooling mechanism.  Eighty per cent of the energy produced in working muscles is in the form of heat. The heat needs to be expelled to prevent the polo pony’s body from overheating. The blood transfers this heat to the skin and lungs where it can be expelled. Seventy per cent of this heat is expelled via sweat which evaporates. The remainder is expelled by the lungs as the horse breathes. Horses can sweat up to 15 litres per hour during intense exercise and can lose up to 60 litres a day. Although this provides for a very efficient cooling mechanism it has its shortfalls. Equine sweat is hypertonic meaning that it is more salty than body fluids unlike human sweat, which is hypotonic. This causes the pony to lose higher quantities of electrolytes and large amounts of body water leaving the pony in danger of suffering from both dehydration and electrolyte imbalance/loss.
b. Electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that are dissolved in body fluids and play a vital role in maintaining many of a pony’s bodily functions including correct hydration levels and ability for the muscles to contract. The fine balance between water and electrolyte concentration is essential for appropriate muscle contraction and also in the cooling the horse. An imbalance or depletion of electrolytes can lead to premature muscle fatigue, reduced stamina, muscle cramps, poor post exercise recovery and tying up.  Horses lose electrolytes on a daily basis, whether or not they are being trained, and may end up with imbalances or partial depletion if losses exceed intake over a long period. This can also take weeks or even months to reverse. It is important to feed electrolytes according to work on a regular daily basis and not on a temporary basis. Electrolytes are also present in grass, hay and all forages. All compound feeds contain some electrolytes. The aim should be to replace of electrolytes through feeding. It is not possible to replace the total amount of electrolytes lost by giving a horse water with electrolytes in.
c. Feeding.
Fibre is one of the most important nutrients in the diet of polo ponies.
Ponies should ideally be allowed ad-lib access to long forage or at least no less than 1 kilo to 100 kilos of body weight i.e. 4.5 kilos of long forage daily for a 450 kilo pony.
Fibre in the hindgut traps water and electrolytes help against the effects of dehydration. Optimum fibre intake encourages drinking.
Optimum levels of forage and fibre help to reduce the incidence of colic by maintaining optimum digestive tract contractions and general digestive health.
d. Watering and Cooling of Ponies. It is important that ponies are offered water immediately after a game, it did not matter if it was cold, and washed down with constant application of cold water whilst walking. Grooms are often keen to get ponies away as quickly as possible and welfare officers should ensure that ponies had a chance to drink and were washed down before being loaded to go home.
Conclusion. Maintaining optimum hydration helped to maintain performance and improved recovery rates post match.”
Best regards,
Oliver Hughes
Deputy Chief Executive”
Photograph: Hydration is a key way to maintain horse welfare and performance. By Polo Times

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