Water is consumed by the horse through both drinking and eating and makes up approximately 65-75% of the mature horse’s body. As with all species, water is essential for life, transporting nutrients and other substances around the body and helping food move through the digestive tract. Also, acting as a medium for metabolic processes, water plays an important role in regulating the temperature of the horse.
The horse’s natural diet would consist mainly of grass and other forages which contain a high percentage of water. What we often provide our horses with nowadays can be very different to this, e.g. hay and concentrate feeds which are lacking in moisture. Remember the golden rules of feeding ‘Feeding something succulent every day’. There is a good reason for this rule as not only does it add interest to the horse’s diet but more importantly it provides extra moisture and mimics the horse’s natural diet.
Making the most of moisture
A major advantage of providing a soaked feed is that it can help to increase the amount of water consumed.
Water deficiency, for many reasons, can occur during both the summer and winter months. Horses not receiving enough water are more likely to suffer digestive disturbances. A lack of water may mean feed being digested may not pass normally through the gut, which can result in impaction colic.
During the winter months, in particular, the amount of water a horse consumes may be reduced, either through horses being reluctant to drink icy cold water or due to water supplies freezing over. Providing a soaked feed will provide an additional water source.
Soaked feeds and dental health
The importance of dental health for good digestion cannot be overemphasized; regular visits from a qualified dental technician or vet are essential to ensure good health and ultimately ensure maximum use of nutrients within feed. Dental problems, such as loose, worn or missing teeth, particularly in the older horse, can lead to weight loss, choke and digestive disturbances, simply because they are not able to chew effectively. For these horses and ponies with impaired dentition being able to offer a soaked feed can literally be a life saver – ensuring they can still take in all the nutrients in an easy to manage form.
Soaked feeds and performance
Travelling and competing can increase water requirements, and in addition to this, create situations where the horse may be reluctant to drink. Dehydration in any horse is a serious matter but especially so in the competition horse where it can lead to a loss of performance. Being able to boost the amount of water consumed by providing a soaked feed can be invaluable.