How do I man­age my horse’s wa­ter in­take?


QI of­ten worry that my horse isn’t drink­ing enough. How much wa­ter should he be con­sum­ing each day and how can I en­sure that he gets the amount he needs? What are signs that in­di­cate he isn’t getting enough?

AWater is the most es­sen­tial nu­tri­ent for your horse, and fresh, clean, cool wa­ter must al­ways be avail­able to him. De­hy­dra­tion can lead to poor per­for- mance, lethargy, colic, kid­ney dam­age, col­lapse and even death. Un­for­tu­nately, there are peo­ple who in­ten­tion­ally with­hold wa­ter at shows to quiet their horses. This is an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous prac­tice and never ap­pro­pri­ate. In ad­di­tion to harm­ing the horse, with­hold­ing wa­ter can lead to yel­low cards and fines if you are caught.

Wa­ter makes up about 70 per­cent of a horse’s to­tal body weight, and main­tain­ing this bal­ance is es­sen­tial. The av­er­age horse will drink 5 to 15 gal­lons per day or about 1 gal­lon per 100 pounds of body weight. Brood­mares need even more—about 20 gal­lons per day to pro­duce milk for their foals.

One of the most im­por­tant fac­tors de­ter­min­ing wa­ter in­take is dry mat­ter in­take, for in­stance, how much for­age your horse is eat­ing. Horses sweat up to 2 to 3 gal­lons per day, so how hard your horse works also has a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect and may triple the wa­ter re­quire­ments. Heat, hu­mid­ity and health sta­tus also have an ef­fect.

Mon­i­tor­ing your horse’s wa­ter in­take is im­por­tant to de­tect po­ten­tial changes in health. Buck­ets are the best way to mon­i­tor for changes. If you use au­to­matic wa­ter­ers, they should be checked daily to make sure they are func­tion­ing prop­erly. It may take a new horse some time to fig­ure out how to use an au­to­matic wa­terer, so horses who have not used one be­fore should have wa­ter buck­ets avail­able un­til they are seen drink­ing wa­ter (and swal­low­ing it, not just play­ing in it) from the au­to­matic wa­terer. Iron­i­cally, thirst does not al­ways cor­re­late with de­hy­dra­tion, so your horse may not drink when he needs it the most.

Wa­ter­ers, tanks and buck­ets must be cleaned reg­u­larly to pre­vent build-up of al­gae, scum and mos­quito lar­vae. If you are un­sure of the wa­ter qual­ity, have it tested. Oc­ca­sion­ally, wells have high lev­els of bac­te­ria or ni­trates that can cause ill­ness.

You can mon­i­tor your horse’s hy­dra­tion by eval­u­at­ing the fol­low­ing: UÊ ÃÊ}Õ Ã]ÊÜ V ÊÃ Õ `ÊLiÊ ÃÌÊ

and pink

“Wa­ter makes up about 70 per­cent of a horse, s to­tal body weight, and main­tain­ing this bal­ance is es­sen­tial. The av­er­age horse will drink 5 to 15 gal­lons per day.”

U His iyis an` vlanks, which shoul` not

bi sunkin U /hi skin on his nick, which shoul`

snap back whin pinchi` U His briathing pat­tirn, which shoul` bi

ivin an` rigu­larp­not pant­ing U /hi cap­il­lary riv­ill ov his gums. /his can bi ival­u­ati` by priss­ing your thumb on thi horsi½s gums to blanch out thi skin, thin count­ing thi numbir ov sicon`s un­til thi color rit­urns. It shoul` taki liss than two sicon`s.

In thi win­tir, hor­sis will `rink liss watir, which will `icri­asi vii` con­sump­tion risult­ing in liss inirgy vor thi horsi. It may also lia` to vii` im­pactions ov thi in­tis­ti­nis. It is im­por­tant to priv­int vri­iz­ing ov tanks an` buck­its by us­ing watir hi­atirs or warm watir. Chick thi watir sivi­ral timis `aily to maki suri it isn½t vrozin, or, iv us­ing il­ic­tric hi­atirs, that thi horsi is not git­ting a mil` shock whin `rink­ing. /hi watir shoul` bi kipt bitwiin 4x an` 60 `igriis Fahrin­hiit at all timis. -now is not an ap­pro­priati watir sourci.

Provi`ing vrii-choici traci mini­ral­izi` salt can in­cour­agi your horsi to `rink. Iv your horsi `ois not usi his salt block, consi`ir a``ing 1 tab­lispoon ov tabli salt to his grain onci or twici `aily. Iv your horsi still rivu­sis to `rink, ap­pli juici, il­ic­trolytis, Kool-Ai`, mo­las­sis or ivin al­valva pil­lits may bi a``i` to oni buckit to in­cour­agi watir

con­sump­tion but bi suri to havi oni buckit ov plain watir as will. /his is also usivul whin trav­il­ing to vla­vor thi watir in niw placis.

7hin trav­il­ing to shows, clin­ics or othir pub­lic placis, kiip biosi­cu­rity in min`. Do not al­low your horsi to `rink out ov com­mon tanks or usi a `irty buckit to collict watir vrom a com­mon aria. Do not usi othir hor­sis½ watir buck­its un­liss thiy havi biin cliani` an` `isin­victi` with bli­ach. Lastly, `o not put thi in` ov a hosi `ir­ictly into your buck­its to vill, but in­s­tia` hol` thi watir abovi thi buckit.

7ith ap­pro­priati cari an` a lit­tli ivvort, you can in­suri that your horsi gits thi amount ov watir hi nii`s.

Lisa Borzynski, DVM, is a 1993 grad­u­ate of the School of Ve­teri­nary Medicine at the Univer­sity of Wisconsin and a vet­eri­nar­ian at the Wisconsin Equine Clinic and Hos­pi­tal spe­cial­iz­ing in sporthorse medicine and lameness. She is also an FEI vet­eri­nar­ian, work­ing as part of the ve­teri­nary team for the first week of the 2018 World Eques­trian Games in the sports of event­ing, dres­sage, paradres­sage and en­durance. An ac­tive com­peti­tor on the event­ing and hunter/jumper cir­cuits, she has also com­peted in dres­sage. She is based in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

In win­ter, check your horse, s wa­ter bucket sev­eral times daily to make sure it isn't frozen.

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