Make sure your horse stays hydrated in warm and humid weather
Nutrition & Feeding

How to make sure your horse stays hydrated

Because your horse is a large animal, she needs to drink a lot of water to keep her body working properly.

A mature, average-sized horse will drink between 20 and 40 litres (5 to 10 gallons) of water a day.

Exercise, hot temperatures, humidity, sweating, pregnancy and nursing as well as increased hay intake will all increase the amount of water your horse needs – sometimes by as much as three or four times the normal amount.

Without enough water, you risk your horse getting impaction colic and after an extended period of time without water kidney failure, brain damage and organ shutdown become major concerns.

When summer starts heating up it’s important to remember to keep your horse well hydrated. During hot weather, a horse’s intake of water can easily double.

It’s important to make sure that your horse has fresh, clean water to drink at all times.

Hydration in horses is just as important as in humans and if your horse is not drinking it can be a sign of problems, so keep your eyes open and scrub those water troughs!

Horses are picky drinkers

Your horse should always have water available.

Horses have a sensitive palate and are very particular about the water they drink, so make sure your buckets and troughs are clean, free of debris, dirt, faeces and dead animals.

Just like you wouldn’t drink water with a dead rat in it, neither will your horse.

Rather than drink contaminated water, she will refuse to drink at the risk of becoming dehydrated and possibly even colic.

If really thirsty and given no choice, your horse will drink contaminated water even at the risk of becoming severely ill, so make sure she always has fresh, clean water sources to drink from.

Make sure the water is flowing

Troughs and buckets need to be regularly emptied and scrubbed out, the more you do it the happier your horse is!

Even automatic watering systems need to be checked to ensure that they’re working every day and cleaned out when necessary.

Don’t rely on the fact that the automatic system will just provide water for your horse. If there is a problem with the water supply your horse might get dehydrated, simply because she couldn’t get water when she needed it and has been trying to get a drink all day.

Especially in summer, during hot weather and after exercise horses are very, very thirsty critters

If you’ve just had a strenuous ride and your horse has been working hard and sweating she will make a beeline for the first water source in view.

If your horse is still breathing hard after the work-out don’t let her drink too much too fast – drink a little and walk her a little, then let her drink some more and walk around for a bit before drinking more.

At the end of any ride, you should always walk your horse until she has time to calm down and let her muscles rest and recover.

Keep an eye on her loin area to see if she’s breathing heavily.

After a ride on a hot day, you can help your horse to cool down by watering her down. Don’t use ice-cold water to rinse her or for drinking – lukewarm or cool water is best.

Cool or room temperature water will hydrate your horse faster as it won’t take as much energy to warm up in the body as ice-cold water will.

Horses prefer to drink water that is around 10ºC (50ºF) so when giving horses water in winter you can add some hot water to warm it up if it’s freezing or ice-cold.

Learn how to feel the temperature of the water with your hand so that you can quickly tell if the water is good for your horse (every horse has individual preferences).

Horses drink more in summer

Your horse will typically drink about 4 litres of water for every kilo of hay she consumes.

Keep in mind that your horse might drink double the amount of water on a hot or humid day compared to what she usually drinks.

This means that if you’re using buckets you need to be mindful of scrubbing and refilling all the buckets, catering to your horse at regular intervals.

When using automated systems daily maintenance is key – as with all things relating to equine health: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

In addition to water remember to check that your horse has her salt lick available

With increased water intake it is likely that your horse will also use her salt lick more.

If you have a high-performance horse you might want to chat with your vet to make sure your horse is getting sufficient supplements in her diet.

A well-balanced diet will usually provide your horse with everything she needs, but just as with human athletes, greater performance demands greater restocking of lost nutrients.

Check with your vet as to the amount and type of supplements you should feed your horse – if any at all.

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