Winter Woes: Keeping Your Horse Hydrated

Surely you’ve heard the expression, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” but we’re here to tell you some tips and tricks to do just that! Although it’s a no brainer that horses need to drink adequate water to remain hydrated in the heat of the summer, it’s also a key factor in their winter wellbeing. Horses wintering in the northeast are managed on a forage diet of dry hays as opposed to more moisture-rich grasses they feed upon in the warmer months. This increase in dry matter consumption also increases the need for water intake. Not only is adequate water consumption necessary for cellular functions, it plays a huge role in successful digestion in the horse. So, let’s keep those impaction colics away this winter with these helpful tips to keep your horse hydrated!

  • Forage – Keeping your horse munching on plenty of good quality forage will not only keep him warm during the winter months, but will also increase his thirst!
  • Temperature – It’s no secret that some horses prefer warm water to cold water. Horses with severe dental issues may avoid cold water, making them more prone to dehydration and impaction colic.
  • Taste – Horses that are not naturally good drinkers may increase their daily water consumption if the water tastes better. We like to call these “teas” and recommend adding flavorful items like powdered electrolytes, a handful of grain, 1 cup of apple juice, etc., to your horse’s water bucket to entice them to drink. It is important when offering a tea to always offer one additional bucket of plain water in case they don’t like the flavor of the tea and also as a way for them to quench their thirst from salty additives (like electrolytes) that aim to increase thirst.
  • Electrolytes – Whether adding to one water bucket or feeding daily as a supplement in the feed, supplemented electrolytes aim to increase your horse’s sensation of thirst.
  • Ice Management – It doesn’t take long for water buckets and troughs to freeze in the cold winter months. Even if the bucket only forms a thin ice top layer, some horses may not be able to figure out how to break through the ice to get to the underlying water. Be sure to check water buckets every few hours to break down forming ice. Water bucket heaters are also available as attachments for your horse’s regular buckets to keep them from freezing in the cold weather.
  • Education – If you’ve moved your horse, upgraded waterers, or maybe just have a bit of a knucklehead on your hands…take the time to make sure your horse knows how to use the waterers both in his stall and pasture.
  • Monitoring – The single most important tip to making sure your horse stays well hydrated in the winter (or anytime!) is to monitor his consumption daily! Get a feeling of about how much water your horse normally drinks in a day’s time, that way you are aware of decreased consumption when it happens and can utilize one of our other tricks to try to keep hydration adequate.

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