Got water? Just like with people clean, fresh water is imperative for the health and well-being of our horses. The #1 nutrient our horses need to survive is water! It doesn’t matter if the temperature outside is 70 degrees, -20 degrees, or hitting triple digits, horses should ALWAYS have access to clean, fresh water. Our motto here, at the ranch, is if we wouldn’t drink it, they’re not going to drink it.
According to EquiMed “A horse’s body contains 65 to 76 percent water. Water is essential for all metabolic activities and for a number of vital physiological processes including utilization and digestion of nutrients, regulation of body temperature, muscle contraction strength, joint lubrication, and waste elimination. ”
A typical horse weighing 1,000 to 1,200 pounds needs 8 to 10 gallons of clean, fresh water per day for maintenance. If the horse is being strenuously exercised, if it’s hot and/or humid out, if they’re sweating, their water intake will increase up to 3 times more per day. If you have a lactating mare producing milk for her foal, her water needs are at least 75% more per day. And, if it’s hot out, she’ll need even more water!
Clean, fresh water should be available to your horses at all times; day and night, 24/7, 365 days a year. The lack of clean, fresh water can contribute to poor health, including impactions leading to colic and dehydration which can be deadly.
Years ago I volunteered at a horse rescue. The horse manager went on vacation leaving a resident of the rescue in charge of filing and cleaning water tubs while she was out of town for the weekend. The resident forgot to water two of the horses. When I arrived at the rescue, after the weekend, I discovered the empty water tub. One horse survived the over sight, the other did not. It was a mistake, but clearly a deadly one.
I can not stress enough the importance of making sure, whether you’re heading off to work, out running errands, heading in from the barn after the evening feeding or taking off on vacation, you MUST make sure your horses’ ALWAYS have access to clean, fresh water! I know I’m preaching, but I’ve earned the right having seen the horror that horse went through before it passed because someone forgot to check its water.
And, if you live where it snows, snow is not an acceptable form of water for your horses! Horses do not like frozen water. When it’s cold they will not drink ice, cold, water. And they surely can not eat enough snow to fulfill their needed daily water intake.
During the winter months you can give your horses warm water. You can use insulated buckets, heated buckets, or our favorite water bucket cozy. We purchased ours from Wild Angel Cozy and absolutely love them! Our water never froze and the horses drank plenty all winter. (We kept the top insulating piece off.) We refilled their water buckets 3 times a day with warm water that we trucked down from the house. Inconvenient? Yes. Worth it? Every minute of it!
Research has shown that most horses prefer water that ranges between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Do you like to drink hot water on a hot day, or icy water on a freezing day? Yeah, neither do I! And, neither do our horses! So keep that in mind when watering your horses.
Lastly, just as having no water is extremely dangerous to your horse’s well being, so are unclean water tubs and equipment such as troughs and buckets which can also harbor bacteria or viruses that can make your horse’s sick. It’s imperative to thoroughly clean and sanitize your horse’s water containers throughout the year to ensure they’re getting the best clean, fresh water every single day.
Allowing horses to have access to clean, fresh, water year-around is extremely important to properly maintaining the health and well-being of our beloved horses! Got water? You bet we do!