Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society

How ‘Bout A Drink? - Making Sure Your Horse is Getting Enough H2O

By Jodi Luecke

Horse owners know to provide plenty of water for their horses in the hot summer months, but being sure your horses drink plenty of water during the cold winter months is just as important.

Due to low temperatures, horses won’t be as likely to drink as much, and many horses don’t like drinking icy cold water. These factors can reduce your horse’s water intake and cause dehydration and even colic.

Before you panic and send your horse to winter in the Bahamas, consider a few things you can do to increase your horse’s water intake.

Purchase a water bucket heater or a heater for your water trough

These can be found in some feed stores as well as online, and they don’t cost much. (Actually, they cost a lot less than an emergency trip to the vet for colic treatment.) Be sure to carefully follow the instructions and if you use an electric one, you may consider running the electrical cord through a piece of PCV pipe to protect any bored animals on the property that may be looking around for something to chew.

Provide a little extra salt in your horse’s diet

You may want to put out a salt block for your horse or—if your horse isn’t a Salt-Block-Licker—you can sprinkle it into his feed. A little bit of oil, molasses or even water will keep the salt from sifting to the bottom of the bucket. Horses can be supplemented 1-2 ounces of salt per day. If you decide to use a mineral/salt mixture, or electrolytes, carefully read the product label for dosage instructions as concentrated levels of electrolytes can actually reduce water intake.

Fix your horse a cocktail

You can try adding a little apple juice or flavored gelatin to your horse’s water. Be sure that if you’re getting creative, you always provide your horse with an alternative supply of plain, fresh water, and don’t be insulted if he turns his nose up at your self-invented Caribbean Concoction.

Soak the feed

You can also fix his little red wagon by adding water to his feed. Soaking hay or alfalfa can help increase water intake, as well as soaking beet pulp or bran mashes.

So whichever way you go about it, be sure that your horse is drinking enough water to stay healthy and out of the doctor’s office. A good rule of thumb is to figure that an average horse needs a gallon of water per 100 pounds, but variables exist, such as temperature/humidity, exercise, feed types, etc. And each horse is different, so pay attention to the water bucket on a daily basis to get a good idea of what your horse’s water requirements are and if they’re being met. And if you don’t think he’s drank enough, order up another round!