When it’s warm outside, keeping horses hydrated is simple. We usually don’t have to do much to encourage our horses to drink. When offered clean, cool water, horses will stay hydrated on their own. However, as the weather turns cold, horses tend to drink less and coupled with stall confinement, less exercise, and diets higher in concentrates, this can spell trouble. In fact, veterinarians will tell you that they see a rise in impaction colic cases during the cold weather months each year. 

Under normal conditions, horses will drink about one gallon of water per 100 pounds of body weight. This means that a 1,100-pound horse will drink 10-12 gallons of water daily. As water temperature decreases, however, the horse will drink less, maybe as little as 1-3 gallons daily when temperatures are at freezing or below. 

So how do we persuade our horses to drink more water during colder weather? Here are a few tips and tricks to keep your horse hydrated all year long.

When temperatures drop, offer warm water.

Studies have shown that horses prefer a water temperature between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. When outside temperatures are below 45, use a water heater, heated buckets, or a bucket insulator to keep the water warmer. 

Add loose salt to their feed ration.

Though many people provide salt licks, horses aren’t often able to get as much salt as they need from licking them. This is why feeding loose salt is important. Adding about 1 1/2 tablespoons of loose salt to their feed ration each day will not only provide for their sodium and chloride needs, but encourage them to drink more water as well. 

Soak your horse’s feed.

An easy way to get more water into your horse is simply by soaking their feed. This works best with hay cubes or pellets, beet pulp, or senior feed. When temperatures are below freezing, make sure to use warm water for soaking and allow pellets and cubes to fully soften.

Keep water buckets and tanks clean.

Finally, keeping your water tanks and drinking buckets clean is another important factor in encouraging your horse to drink more water. Feed, hay, insects, and other debris can easily get into tanks and buckets, so clean them often to provide fresh water that your horse is more likely to drink. 

If you have further tips to help keep horses hydrated in colder weather, feel free to share them in the comments!

Casie Bazay

Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at www.casiebazay.com or on Instagram @casie_bazay and Twitter @CasieBazay.