Sunday, July 8, 2012

Water Troubles and Drinking Styles

We've had brutally hot weather for weeks - temperatures in the upper 90s and as high as the 100s every day, with miserable humidities on top of it, and no rain - we haven't had hardly any measurable rain in the past several months and the last big rain was in April.  Last Thursday, in the middle of the worst of the heat - I think it got to 104F that day with a heat index of 115 - the well at the barn stopped working.  Now this is a large barn, with over 60 horses, and many water tanks for pastures and outdoor horses and many indoor buckets.  We went from having plentiful water for drinking and bathing horses to having rust and air.  The barn owner has really risen to the occasion - she had a water truck there quickly, and has also purchased a 500-gallon tank for her pickup and purchased water from a nearby town.  She's been out there every day for a large part of the day and evening being sure that every horse has enough clean, fresh water.  The well is 1000 feet deep and goes into a sandstone formation with plentiful water, so despite our extreme drought conditions, it appears the problem is either with the pump or a break in the well casing.  Not cheap or easy to repair, but the well people are expected on Monday to work on it - they had to wait until they had all the parts on hand so it's taken a few days.  Keeping fingers crossed that repairs will be quick.

Thankfully, yesterday afternoon, the worst of the heat broke as a cold front finally moved through - but without any rain.  Temperatures today were in the mid 80s, with much lower humidity, so the horses were finally able to be out all day without being miserable - I'd been bringing mine in early each day, and putting them under their fans, but the heat was still oppressive.  It's interesting to see how each of my horses has coped with the heat and the water situation.

Dawn is the most sensitive - she gets hot and sweaty easily and volunteers to come in.  She also gave me some serious worries about the water - she wasn't drinking well and was somewhat dehydrated.  I tried everything - electolytes, Gatorade, you name it, but she was mostly refusing to drink.  I cut her hay way back to reduce the risk of colic.  I think she just didn't like the taste of the new water - particularly the water from the new tank on the barn owner's truck - she would swish her nose violently in the water tank to show her displeasure, but refuse to drink.  We also tried using bottled water without much success.  Finally, today, she decided she could drink.  She drank almost two-thirds of a bucket after dinner, and also drank some Ice Mountain bottled water I'd put in a separate bucket for her.  I also took her out to one of the pasture troughs to drink, and she took a few swallows.  It's a big relief.

Pie was also stressed by the heat - he would be starting to sweat and breathing hard by the time I brought him in each morning.  He also objected to the new water, by swishing his face in it, which he never does, but then he would drink, making it clear he had to hold his nose to do so.  Red mostly stayed cool as a cucumber even in the hottest weather, and drank whenever he was presented with water.  Red also stayed protectively close to Pie in the pasture whenever Pie was starting to get heat stressed.

I love watching horses drink - they each have their own style.  Dawn always noisily flaps her bottom lip in the water when she starts to drink, and then delicately places her chin in the water to drink.  Pie has an elaborate routine - he drinks deeply but with his lips and then has to take several breaks in between drinks to suck his tongue - it protrudes slightly from his mouth as he does so.  Red just plunges in and drinks readily in one go.  I usually take Pie and Red out together to drink from one of the outside tanks - they seem to prefer this - and they stand right together and put their faces close together as they drink.

Had a very short ride on Pie today, the first in a long time - the indoor arena was too dusty for more (the indoor doesn't get watered on Sunday).  Dawn got another rest day, and Red and I did some more ground driving - he's mastered going forward with me behind and seemed to enjoy the work.   His hock is looking good - very little swelling and none near the supposed splint fracture - and he's moving well in the pasture - I saw him doing some big trot which looked sound although he didn't do it for long.  We'll see how he feels after his chiro appointment Wednesday.  I'm hoping for good riding weather for most of the week . . .

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