06 Feb 2022 How Much Water Do Horses Drink?
How much does a horse drink daily?
On average, horses drink between 5-1O gallons of fresh water every day.
A horse can survive 2O-25 days without food, but horses can only live 3-6 days without water.
The amount of water each horse drinks each day will depend on each individual horse’s cravings and needs – just like humans.
The daily temperature, and your horse’s activity level can also influence how thirsty your horse is each day.
Proactive horse owners monitor their horse’s water intake daily. This way, if there’s every an issue, like a suspected colic, you know how much your horse drank that day and how it compares to normal.
How can you get your horse to drink more water?
If you turn your horse out early in the morning, when the grass is dewy, your horse may get more water content in their forage. Similarly, in times of drought (or during/after rain) there can be more or less water found naturally in your horse’s forage.
If you suspect your horse is not drinking enough, some people find that adding sweeteners to the water can encourage drinking, although I don’t recommend using sweeteners. An alternative way to increase water intake is to soak your horse’s feed and/or to top dress the feed with some extra salt (1-2 tbs) especially during hot or cold weather. (I recommend doing this always. See why!)
How can you tell if your horse is dehydrated?
There are two common tests to immediately tell if your horse is dehydrated – the pinch test and the gum test.
1 – The Pinch Test
Take a fold of skin and lightly pinch it between your fingers and see how quickly it bounces back to flat. Where do you pinch? On the center of your horse’s neck on the “triangle” where the vet gives shots, etc. If the skin doesn’t bounce back within 2 seconds, your horse may be dehydrated.
2 – The Gum Test
You can use the gum test to see if your horse is dehydrated. Press your finger lightly into your horse’s top gum. The spot you pressed will be whitish because you’ve pushed the blood temporarily out of that area. If your horse is dehydrated, it will take several seconds for the gum to return to the regular pink color.
Don’t just do the pinch or gum tests when you think something is wrong though! Make it a part of your daily routine as you work around your horse to check on these things.
For instance, when you’re putting on your horse’s bridle, do the gum check. (You’re already right there in their mouth anyways.) And when you’re grooming or standing next to them with the hose filling up their water buckets, do a quick pinch test.
It’s important to do these tests regularly to get a baseline for what your horse’s responses look like normally, before you suspect colic or dehydration. And one horse might look different than another, as they age and their skin changes, or when they have a thick winter coat.
So stay on top of doing these hydration tests whenever you think of them!
What kind of water do horses like best?
Above all, horses like water that is familiar and consistent. One of the reasons why horses drink less at shows and clinics is because their water source changes and tastes different.
If you’re watering your horse from a hose that’s been lying out in the sun, make sure the water that’s coming out isn’t boiling hot.
Similarly, in the winter, sometimes I hear of people bringing hot water from the house to pour into their horse’s buckets once or twice a day.
You may think this helps your horse warm up, but it would be much better to get a steady bucket heater that provides consistent warmth throughout the day. A horse will keep itself warm when it has access to forage all the time, because the digestion of it will create body heat.
Horses also like clean water (duh!). So make sure that if your horse has a habit of pooping in their water bucket, you either change their water more frequently, or provide more turnout time.
Horses pooping in water buckets is often a sign of distress and turnout is the best way to reduce your horse’s anxiety and lifestyle pressures.
Should I let my horse drink after a workout?
There’s a very dangerous myth going around that horses shouldn’t be allowed to drink water right after a workout.
This could dehydrate your horse even more or cause serious harm.
Horses should be allowed to drink as much as their bodies require, and should be allowed to drink whenever they want – especially when working in hot conditions.
You should not deprive your horse of water, especially after a long, hot ride. Letting your horse drink after a workout will not cause colic or other issues, but preventing them from getting enough water when they’re thirsty could cause serious harm.