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May 21, 2016

Is Your Horse Drinking Toxic Water?

by DePaolo Equine Concepts

After scientifically testing over 3,000 equines with Horse Hair Analysis, one of the most frequently asked questions is ‘How did my horse become toxic in a heavy metal?’ Many times we never find the source, but a common culprit is water. Most horses tested have had more than one owner and have lived in multiple environments. When you combine that with traveling to different facilities for competitions, horses are exposed to a multitude of water sources by the time they are just 6 or 7 years old.

Many news stories have made national headlines over the last couple of years describing the struggles of people who live in communities with contaminated water. People always want to know ‘How does this happen in the United States?’

River MillHere is what the EPA has to say about how water may become tainted: “Many drinking water contamination problems arise from people’s everyday activities. Contaminants can be introduced into ground water, rivers, lakes and streams from a variety of sources: septic tanks and cesspools; surface impoundments; agricultural activities; landfills; lawn care and gardening; underground storage tanks; abandoned wells; accidents; storm water systems; illegal dumping; and highway de-icing are examples.”


tractor spraying pesticides on soy bean

tractor spraying pesticides on soy bean

Unfortunately, water can easily become polluted by pesticides sprayed on fields, mining, fracking, pollution from smelters brought to earth by rainfall, etc. Heavy metals like lead, nickel and arsenic can be released into water sources used for drinking or irrigation of crops that become your horse’s feed source. Even though the water looks, smells and maybe even tastes acceptable, it could contain heavy metals that build up in the body over time.


Although your city or municipality tests the drinking water, and the reading is ‘acceptable’ for humans, remember, horses drink 10-30 gallons a day. If the level tested ‘normal’ but was close to being toxic in heavy metals, it may still be the source since horses intake is a significantly higher amount.

The most common symptoms of heavy metal toxicity in horses are:

  • anxiety/nervousness/worry
  • ulcers
  • colic
  • diarrhea
  • anemia
  • dry skin/poor hair coat/hair loss
  • metabolic diseases
  • arthritis
  • reproductive disorders
  • depressed attitude
  • fatigue/muscle weakness
  • ataxia
  • loss of appetite
  • compulsive behavior

Other more vague symptoms include decreased performance and allergies.

Heavy metal toxicities could be the root of the problem with horses exhibiting the above mentioned issues. Once a heavy metal has reached a toxic level in a horse, the only way to eliminate it from the body is with chelation (pronounced key-lay-shun) therapy. This is where we supply the body with an inert material that will go in and surround the toxic metal; this allows it to be safely removed from the body.

Over the next few months, we will take a more in depth look into communities that have had to deal with contaminated water. If there are horses in that area that have been tested with Horse Hair Analysis, I will share those cases and the issues their owners were having with them at the time of the testing. Up next: Flint, Michigan.

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