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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

March 24, 2011

You can lead a horse to water at an LD but you can't ....

...make them drink!   Funder and I have very similar horses in regard to mare/horsey behavior.   With willingness to drink being one of the common threads of our aggravation.  I have made "some" progress in this area, as Phebes will now drink out of the common water tanks once she hits about 18 miles.  However she will not drink out of a bucket either at an LD or on a training ride. Nor can she find relaxation enough to take advantage of creek water at a ride, though on solo training rides she will (at about 18 miles).  This thread of thought got me to thinking about the LD as a training ground for endurance.  In some ways I believe it isn't really always the best way to break into distance riding if your goal is longer distance.   Granted, many or even most horses can do alright.  But couple a rider new to the sport with a horse that is new to the sport and it is the perfect storm for things to go haywire.  In a perfect world if LD were only a training ground for longer distance it seems like it would start out with a novice division that requires a set slow pace (in order that the horses learn to ride that pace from the beginning), with a penalty for coming in too early. (Someone will call out here CTR! of which AERC offers none, because it is not what they do).  If I could do it all over, I think I'd have done a full season of CTR prior to attempting an LD.  I think if you are successful at CTR, the segue to LD would be seamless.   You would also avoid a lot of problems from the outset as your horse's pace would be slower, and you would be learning to manage issues before they erupt into problems.

ENDURANCE TRAINING CLINICS would be a beautiful thing for new people and/or new horses coming into the sport.  They might be available out west, but nothing like that here in the midwest that I know of.  A "Getting Started in Endurance" clinic would ideally be presented by riders who have accrued a lot of mileage on the same horse, rather than someone who races.  We see reining clinics, bomb proofing clinics, cow clinics, barrel racing clinics, hobble clinics, round penning, blah blah blah blah blah clinics.  But where are the Getting Started in Endurance Clinics?

But here we are, Funder with her horse related issues and me with mine.  I can't speak for Funder and Dixie since I haven't had the pleasure of meeting either in person, or riding with.  But I can honestly say that virtually ALL of Phebes issues are related to starting her at too fast of a pace.  She mentally could not handle the stress of all the new stimuli and churning down the trail.  It set into  motion a pattern of difficulties that I expect we will be unraveling for the next few years.  Not worth it.  Seriously...NOT WORTH IT.   I still believe that Phebes can, because on training rides she does great now.  It is in the presence of other horses that the mental unraveling occurs.

So!  Back to the real topic of drinking.  Here's what I'm trying currently.

Low dose electrolytes in a water carrier / with a water chaser.

Offering water at every water crossing.

Offering water at the horse trailer (this horse virutally NEVER drinks at the trailer).

Things I'm going to try:

  • Adding flavoring to a bucket of water.  My thoughts are that if I can find something pre-ride she will really slurp down...that would be half the battle, starting out well-hydrated and electrolyted.   Thoughts on this are molasses, powdered Gator Aid, Apple Juice, or Horse Quincher (some folks swear by it).
  • Not offering water at the trailer.  You say what??!  It might make the water on trail look a lot better.  Phebes favorite trail water is the one that has frog eggs in it.
  • Spending a few days offering water out of a bucket as the ONLY drinking source in case "bucket" is the real issue.
  • Offering a legal something or other to calm her stomach, as the excitement may be creating a gastric issue of some sort?
  • A hypnotist (maybe I could be calmer) *LOL*
Have a nice day all.  ~ E.G.


  1. Maybe you could try giving her electrolytes in a different medium? Like put them in her grain or in an old (and clean) wormer syringe with honey in it? Then she would have clean water. I have read that some horses are just so picky about their water that if anything seems even slightly wrong with it (including being watered in a plastic bucket) that they would really dehydrate themselves.

    As for something to calm her stomach, peppermint treats (or even peppermint hard candies) should do the trick, as the menthol oil is a calmer.

  2. I've been reading both your struggles with drinking and counting my lucky starts that Oz loves nothing as much as he loves drinking from water crossings.

    Do you have a horse you can ride with who drinks well? I've found that a lot of horses will lead by example. Ozzy is great at teaching other horses to drink, and many of them carry over lessons from home to competition.

    U7 is the best thing I've found for calming the stomach, and I'm 99% sure it's AERC legal. Never met a horse who doesn't like it.

  3. I'm not putting electrolytes in her drinking water, I'm putting it in water in a syringe, followed by clean water from a water bottle to rinse her mouth well and chase it down.

  4. While I have only completed one actual 35 mile LD now with Maggie(not bad for her first year in my book) I have noticed on our conditioning that I may struggle with Maggie on some of these same things. On alot of our conditioning rides, when we get back to the trailer, I noticed she isn't interested in eating or drinking. Granted I didn't ride her fast or hard last year but enough to where I would have thought she would have worked up a bit of thirst at the very least! On the 35 LD, she did drink at the half way point and one little sip on the return back to camp.

    Normally she is a good drinker and eater at home (too much of a good eater) but we are still working out the bugs with that on the trail.

    I have also heard good things on Horse Quencher.. I might consider that this year for Maggie.

    I have an idea for you on calming her. This is going to sound woo -woo but get some lavender essential oil (the real stuff) and put it on a cotton ball and let Phebes smell it for a few minutes prior to a ride or carry it with you and offer it to her every so often. Might do the trick

  5. So do I understand that Phoebes doesn't drink out of a bucket at home? If that is the case, then that is where I would start.

    I've heard the saying you can't make a horse drink, but you can make sure they are thirsty when they get there. So I think you are working on that already with electrolytes.

    So if it is not the bucket issue and it is not the thirsty issue, I would wager it is the nerves issue. She doesn't feel comfortable enough to drink for whatever reason. So I really think you nailed them all on the head and have some things you can try. If you think it is Ulcers, I'm telling you that Miracle Clay works miracles. Dynamite has a few other products you can try that sometimes help with calming horses. I know when Doc was young, I used Vitamin B. Can't remember which one, but I can look it up for you.

    Here is an interesting thread from the Chronicle of the horse about folks experience with Dynamite products...

  6. Jonna,

    I'm totally into "woo woo" since I saw Reiki performed on my dog years ago and her reaction to it...bring the woo woo on.


  7. Lida,

    I think it is "nerves" too. She bent down to drink one day started to sip and spooked herself nearly OUT OF THE CREEK BED. I had to was very strange! Soon as she gets home it is business as usualy. She has improved a little each time, so I think 15-18 miles is how long it takes for her thirst instinct to kick into gear. I'm honestly more of a worrier over food consumption than water. I'm still on the hunt for some really soft timothy hay (ours is kind of stemmy) just to take on rides, or some nice orchard grass. Nicole said she had fescue I think and Phebes thinks that stuff is for rolling on (since we have plenty of it). What she really likes is the one thing I can't give her which is alfalfa. I'm really not stressing too much this year about it, I try something, it works or it doesn't. If she is too stressed I can always RO the ride and try again next day! That is one good thing about setting your goals low vs. high, you can just kind of go with it.

    I will keep some of the products in mind. I've heard good things about clay, and U7 I have never heard of so I will have to web search!

  8. I have never ridden in an endurance ride or a CTR but I have done P&R's for them. I can see where newbies could have problems and what you say about starting off in CTR makes sense. They're going to have their horses evaluated and get ideas on how to fix problems.

    I went on a trail ride once with over 100 horses and there were lots of people not prepared for the thing that happens when you get that many horses together on one ride. I'll never forget that feeling when the herd thought they were going to run. I was really glad my horse was well trained and tuned in to me.

  9. You know I'm following whatever you're trying out!

    I really think there's something physiologically special about 15-20 miles. There are so many people who say "oh he/she never drinks for the first 15/20 miles but then he/she tanks up." I am trying to not worry about getting Dixie to drink in the first 20 miles and just get her drinking that "away" water after that.

    Doesn't alfalfa make Phoebes' brain explode? Shame, because it's supposed to be a fantastic stomach buffer. Oh well, she'd probably sunburn if she wasn't losing her mind ;)

  10. OMG! That was hilarious!

    Exploding brain.

    She can tolerate a little bit of it, but too much and she gets nasty scratches that take three freaking months to clear up and she goes on hay strike thinking she can have alfalfa 24/7. She also had alfalfa when she tied up which comes very "close" to a brain explosion.

  11. Okay.. woo woo can have it's place.. (I am always careful with those woo-woo advice things.. you never know how people react..

    Also love the exploding brain terminology.. that must be what Maggie did the other night! HA!

  12. I just bought some timothy alfalfa pellets last night at Tractor Supply that I am going to try on Doc this week. They sort of look like pelleted feed. I was using alfalfa cubes, but I think these will be better. Dry cubes make me nervous. And I like that this is a blend of alfalfa/timothy. I wonder if they make a timothy only product?