You may notice that your horses tend to drink less during the winter. This can put your horse at risk of dehydration, which has serious health risks. It's important to your horse's health to encourage him to drink during cold weather, and these five tips can help.
Why Keeping Your Horse Hydrated Is Important
Decreased water intake can lead to dehydration in horses, and that can bring about many potential health issues. Dehydration can lead to reduced saliva and a corresponding poor appetite. It can also lead to life-threatening impaction colic. In fact, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), decreased water intake during the winter months is believed to be a primary risk factor for impaction colic.
With keeping your horse hydrated essential to his health, you may need to put some or all of the following tips to use this winter.
Ways to Get Your Horse to Drink During the Winter
In the hot summer months, horses are often eager to drink, but that motivation can decrease during the winter. Some horses find cold water unappealing, which can complicate the problem. These tips can help to encourage your horse to stay hydrated, even during the winter.
Keep Water Sources Heated
Keeping your water sources heated may be one of the most effective ways to encourage horses to drink during the winter. Fresh, unfrozen water that’s warmed can be more appealing than ice water.
If you do install a water heater in your trough or use heated buckets, make sure that you do so safely and follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Ensuring that troughs are grounded and heaters are appropriately installed is essential to keeping your horses safe.
If getting electricity to your water sources is impractical, consider using water bucket insulators. These insulators wrap around and over buckets, helping to slow the freezing process and keeping water available to your horses.
Install Automatic Waterers
Automatic waterers can also make it easier to keep your horse supplied with fresh water during the winter. Freeze-proof automatic waterers can ensure that water doesn’t freeze, and you won’t have to worry about hauling buckets, setting up trough heaters, or breaking ice on buckets multiple times a day. Automatic waterers can give you peace of mind year-round, knowing that your horse’s water supply isn’t going to run out.
Feeding your horse electrolytes can help to encourage him to drink by making him thirsty. You can add electrolytes right to your horse’s feed to ensure he gets them.
Some owners like to put electrolytes in water. If you do this, be sure to also provide a bucket of water without electrolytes, allowing your horse to choose the one that he prefers or needs at any time.
Feeding mashes is another effective way to increase your horse’s water intake. Soaking your horse’s grain in hot water until it’s an oatmeal or soup consistency will mean that your horse is getting extra water as he eats.
Soaking your horse’s hay can also increase his water intake as he eats, though this can be difficult in freezing temperatures. If possible, soak hay in a heated feed or tack room, then put it in your horse’s stall right at mealtime.
Flavor Your Water
Some horses may be more willing to drink water when it’s flavored with an additive like apple juice or Gatorade. Try offering your horse a bucket of flavored and a bucket of unflavored water to see which he prefers. You may need to experiment with flavors a bit until you find the one that appeals most to your horse.
Preventing Dehydration in the Winter
Preventing dehydration in your horse during the winter can help to also prevent serious health issues, like impaction colic. Have you successfully used any of these tips previously?