Water Quality Matters: Introducing the Horse Hydrator
Water has been on my radar for some time now, long before hearing about the Horse Hydrator, and long before water disasters like Flint, Michigan hit the public news waves. It has been on my radar for two reasons: quality of our water, and the importance of hydration for our animals, ourselves and the plants and trees. It is not only the availability of water that is at issue; it is the quality of water that affects our food, our health, our animals and the ecosystem of earth.
Water is without question one of the most important substances on earth. Horses can go longer without food than they can without water. Seventy percent of a horse’s weight is water and it is needed for almost every body function. Even a two percent loss of water can reduce performance by 10 to 20 percent. (http://equinechronicleonline.com/performance-horses-and-the-importance-of-hydration)
Loss of water through exercise
When horses sweat, they lose water. Dehydration is the result of fluid losses that exceed fluid intake. This loss of fluid will effect delivery of oxygen to the muscles, elevate heart rate, and reduce blood supply to the tissues.
The quality of our water
The challenge facing us is the quality of our water. Across the country, industrial farming is one of the leading sources of water pollution as rain flushes airborne waste from these operations into lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers. Municipal water is treated with chlorine which, when in contact with organic proteins, can produce dangerous byproducts known as trihalomethanes (THMs). An analysis in 2012 determined that municipal water systems in 43 states had THM contamination affecting over 100 million Americans. (Renée Sharp, Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist, 2013)
The Erin Brockovich connection
Twenty-five years ago, Erin Brockovich took on the power company that polluted the tap water of Hinkley, California with a carcinogenic chemical called chromium-6, also known as hexavalent chromium. Yet these many years later, a new analysis of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests shows that the compound contaminates water supplies in all 50 states. In 2008, a two-year study by the National Toxicology Program found that chromium-6 caused cancer in laboratory rats and mice. In 2010, scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded that ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in people, a conclusion affirmed by state scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina.
Taste and smell
Many horses are sensitive to the taste and smell of water, particularly when traveling and competing. Strange new water may make many horses reluctant to drink, and so we add apple juice, Gatorade, molasses, or oats to the water to encourage hydration. Some horses don’t drink as well as others even at home.
Hopping down the rabbit hole
I wanted to find out more about the quality of water in the US so I hopped down the rabbit hole to learn about municipal water and well water.
Municipal water is known to contain chlorine, hydrogen sulfide, chloride treatment byproducts, aluminum, hexavalent chromium, and in some localities, fluoride. In addition, an array of pharmaceuticals have been found in water in small concentrations, including antibiotics, heart medications, pain medications, and anti-anxiety medications. The parasitic protozoans Giardia and Cryptosporidium can increase due to malfunctioning wastewater disposal systems or improperly disposed sludge.
Well water can typically be high in iron and manganese and may contain atrazine, which is the most common pesticide in US waters. The toxic chemical perchlorate has been detected in water in 26 states, but as of now there is no federal drinking water standard for its presence. According to Scientific American (2011), well water that is unfiltered can also contain high levels of arsenic, lead, and uranium. In agricultural areas, nitrates from nitrogen fertilizers often contaminate well water.
There is evidence that excess iron in the diet reduces the uptake of copper and zinc, can alter glucose metabolism and increase the risk of tendon/ligament problems. Remember, plants, forage, hay, soil, and water are sources of iron. When you add commercial feeds that are fortified with iron, hay grown in high-iron soils, and well water with high iron, it may result in too much iron and too low amounts of copper and zinc. Horses only need 40ppm of iron per day to meet their daily requirements. High iron can be especially problematic for the IR or Cushing’s horses.
Lack of good hydration
It can contribute to colic, choke, poorly digested nutrients, and even heat stroke. Training and performance are compromised as well. One of the early signs of hydration issues is manure: dryer than normal feces can signal dehydration, and manure that is too loose can lead to loss of fluids and cause dehydration.
Testing one, two, three
A client in California told me about a water filter that had turned her imported Dutch warmblood jumper around from a cranky, resistant horse to the willing horse she had tried in Holland. As she was telling me this, I thought, “Of course. Her barn is on city water… he probably wasn’t as hydrated as he needed to be.” But I was intrigued that there was a simple filter one could attach to a hose or spigot and purify the water. Naturally, I had to try it.
I had no expectations. After all, my horses drank well with the exception of a grey pony mare who drank less than I like, yet never seemed dehydrated.
I attached the filter to the hose at the barn and really didn’t give it another thought…until the next day when the pony mare drank 50 percent more water than usual. By the time I turned the horses out that evening, the geldings had consumed ¼ – ⅓ more water than normal. It was not a hot day.
I started noticing that the horses were eating their feed with more gusto. They get their whole-food feed soaked in their buckets and in addition to that, a ground feeder of Chaffhaye, and flakes of their grass/alfalfa hay. The horses normally take a few bites of their feed, then a few bites of the Chaff, then back to the feed, then back to the Chaff. But now they were chowing down on the feed before touching the Chaffhaye.
This water filter is called the Horse Hydrator. It is an ingenious device that easily screws onto your hose or spigot. It provides a dual-filter system capable of decreasing a variety of heavy metals, bacteria, and chemicals.
It also provides a kinetic degradation fluxion process (KDF), which uses high purity copper-zinc media to decrease chloride, iron, lead, mercury, hydrogen sulfide, algae, bacteria and other harmful contaminants. Impurities are rendered harmless by an exchange of electrons. This is known as an oxidation/reduction process.
The other component of the Horse Hydrator is an activated carbon filtration system made from coconuts. The contaminants are filtered or reduced by the mechanism of adsorption, an action similar to clays like kaolin (think Kaopectate) used internally to soak up toxins in the GI tract. Carbon filters from coconut can adsorb pesticides and herbicides, volatile organic chemicals, and trihalomethanes from city water which can be harmful byproducts of chlorine disinfection. A study published in 2013 showed that coconut carbon was capable of adsorbing trivalent and hexavalent chromium. (R. Gottipati, et al. “Simultaneous removal of trivalent and hexavalent chromium by activated carbon”, Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy, 32(4), 2013)
This Horse Hydrator filter is portable. You can use it at home, and take it to shows and clinics. It is capable of filtering up to 2,000 gallons of water before you need to replace it. The company recommends replacing it every 90 days of regular use.
Water purification systems
Barns with water filtration and purification systems would not need the Horse Hydrator at the barn, but will love it when shipping horses and showing horses.
I was so impressed with the Horse Hydrator filter, that BioStar became a distributor for the product. Keeping our horses hydrated and being able to remove contaminants from any water supply makes the Horse Hydrator an exceptionally important and handy device for water purification. And the better the water tastes and smells, the more water the horses will drink!