What is one of the most crucial nutrients to your horse’s health? WATER! Water is crucial for every function in your horse’s body from their respiratory tract to their digestive system. Horses need 2 to 3 times more water than any other of feed. Horses drink an average of 5 to 10 gallons of fresh water a day. It is very important for your horses to stay hydrated, especially if they are used for work or competition. Think about how you feel after competing or working out and how much water you need to perform well and to recover afterwards. Horses have the same needs. During extremely hot or cold weather, water consumption can be doubled. Most people only think about hot weather affecting an animal’s water consumption. Cold weather increases water needs because the air is dry and there is less grass from which to draw out moisture.
What is just as important as keeping your horses hydrated? Keeping your horses hydrated with clean water. Clean water is crucial in your barn or your pasture. Many farms have automatic waters and they do make things easier, but that ease makes them easily forgotten. They get dirty, they can break with barn workers being unaware, and some horses don’t like to drink out of them.
It is important to stay in tune with your horses’ drinking habits and cater to them so they are provided the water they need. At shows, buckets need to be dumped and cleaned daily and some horses need extra buckets hung because they drink a lot more water than others. Another area that is commonly forgotten in terms of care is water troughs in pastures and paddocks. Because they are so large, it takes time for the horses to drink them down and so algae, leaves, dirt, etc. can build up in them. Troughs should be emptied and scrubbed once a week. Would you want to drink from a slimy glass? NO! So don’t expect your horses to either. Of course this all becomes complicated in the winter as water unattended freezes.
Why does water intake matter? Dehydrated horses are more prone to colic. Lack of water can cause impaction colic, which occurs when horses eat dry hay and food and don’t have enough water intake to go along with it.
So here is a good rule of thumb: always check buckets, automatic waters and water troughs every day and make sure you know how much water your horse is drinking.