There are lots of questions when it comes to how much water to give horses. Whether you are new to looking after horses or you have done it for a while and want to make sure you are doing things right, you have come to the right place to find out about watering horses the correct way.
How much water does your horse need?
The amount of water your horse needs every day depends on a lot of different things. The general advice is that a 1000 pound horse will drink approximately six gallons of water on a mild to cool day. However, this can change a lot with different weather conditions, varying levels of activity, how healthy the horse is, and many other things.
When should your horse have access to water?
It is important that all horses have access to fresh water all of the time. There is only one exception to this rule. If your horse has just finished exercising and is warm and sweating, they shouldn’t have water straight away. If you give water to a horse that has been heavily exerted it can cause life threatening issues like colic. Instead, give the horse at least half an hour to cool down. If possible, you should let them cool down for up to 90 minutes before they drink water.
However, this does not mean that your horse cannot drink water whilst they are working. If your horse is actively working and getting hot and sweaty then they should be given water regularly to replace the liquid they are losing as they sweat. If they sweat for a long period of time without replenishing the water in their body then they could become dehydrated. They could also overheat. Both of these things can be very dangerous. For example, a pack horse that is traveling along mountain trails in warm weather will need to drink water as they work to stay hydrated. At the end of their job, they should be cooled down properly before they are given more water.
What affects how much water your horse should drink?
There are many things that will have an impact on how much water your horse should or will drink. The main ones are the temperature, their level of activity, their health, what kind of feed they are having, and the quality of the water.
It is fairly obvious that horses need more water in warmer weather, especially if your horse is active or working. However, it is not obvious that horses might refuse to drink water if the weather is cold. This puts your horse at greater risk of impaction colic and of dehydration. It is important that you try to encourage your horse to drink more water to avoid them experiencing health issues. One of the things you can do to help is use a water heater to keep the ice melted. However, you will need to regularly check that your horses are not getting an electric shock when they drink from the trough. You can also add rock salt to your horse’s feed to encourage them to drink, but seek advice from a veterinarian first.
What your horse eats can have a big affect on how much they should and will want to drink. If your horse is fed on green pastures they will drink less than if they are stall fed. Stall fed horses that eat things like grains and dry hay will need more water to supplement the dry food.
Another thing to consider is that if your horse is unwell, their drinking habits might change. A horse that is suffering from an illness may drink much more or much less than usual. This can be a useful indicator to horse owners that something is wrong. If you notice significant changes in your horse’s watering habits then it is best to get them checked over by a veterinarian.
Keeping your horse’s water clean:
It is extremely important that the water your horse is drinking is clean and fresh. If you don’t take steps to keep your horse’s water clean then it could become contaminated with parasites, bacteria and algae. This can lead to serious health complications for your horse if they ingest the contaminated water. If the water is unclean and your horse decides not to drink it, this could lead to dehydration.
It can be difficult to keep your horse’s water clean, especially if they have an outdoor trough, Of course, keeping that water clean can be a bit tricky. It is inevitable that some contaminants will make their way into the water like bits of hay or horse feed, insects, and dirt.
To make sure that your horse has clean water, you could try using water buckets that can easily be cleaned every day rather than a heavy trough. The buckets are lightweight and easy to carry, so you can bring them in to wash them daily. Troughs are heavy and awkward to move, so you are less likely to clean them regularly. This is also a very cheap solution to keep the water clean.
Another option is that you can install automatic waterers. They provide a continuous flow of fresh water and don’t need to be cleaned as much as buckets, troughs or tanks. There is no chance for the water to become stagnant and collect bacteria. However, they are more expensive than buckets and require power to keep them running.
If you want to use a stock tank to water your horse, it is advisable to use one that is smaller in size. This is because they are easier to dump and clean. You should clean the stock tank thoroughly at least one a week, including a good scrub! You can also use fish like red minnows or goldfish to help keep your stock tank clean. They will eat algae and insects to keep the water and the tank clean. You should use no more than two fish for an average sized tank. If you have too many fish in the tank then their waste will make the water dirty.
If you don’t want to use fish to keep the stock tank clean, then you can add water cleaner. This should stop the water being polluted by algae. Make sure the water cleaner you use is horse friendly and contains no toxic ingredients.