I write honest fantasy. Honest fantasy is about real people in fantasy worlds who are relatable, who in their alien place can reveal to us truths about our own place. I use magic, fantastical creatures and imagined worlds to explore subjects close to home.
These fantasy worlds are based on our own familiar Earth. There’s horses and cake, swords and palaces. Sometimes I need to do some research into history, physics, engineering or biology in order to anchor my fiction in facts. This blog series is a peak into the varied and fascinating research which enhances my work. Some might call it procrastination, I call it fantasy facts.
They are one of only a few furred mammals which sweat for thermoregulation. The fur can trap the moisture and reduce the effectiveness of evaporative cooling. However, horses produce a protein when sweating which creates a lather. A surfactant in the lather reduces friction and helps shed moisture, making sweating more effective.
Horses sweat twice as much as humans, per area of skin. They can lose 15 litres of water per hour during strenuous exercise in hot weather which can be 2-3% of their body weight. They not only lose water, risking dehydration, but they also lose electrolytes, particularly sodium, as well as potassium, calcium and magnesium. A reduction in these essential minerals can lead to dizziness, loss of consciousness, and even death.
A dehydrated horse can appear lethargic and off its food. If you gently pinch the skin on a horse’s neck so it forms a tent shape, it should return to flat immediately. If it takes more than a couple of seconds, then the horse is dehydrated. You can also check their gums which should be a healthy pink colour. Lightly press your finger against the gum and if it takes more than couple of seconds for blood to refill the area, the horse is dehydrated.
Offer the horse plenty of fresh water in a cool, shady area. Rinse the horse with water but scrape off the water afterwards, so it doesn’t inhibit sweating.
If you’re fleeing across country to escape a band of orcs or to deliver a dire message to the king, remember to not push your horse too hard. Take regular breaks and drink plenty of water. You’ll be in trouble if your horse collapses from exhaustion or dehydration before you make it to the city.