Most of the year it is pretty easy to keep your horse drinking to stay healthy & hydrated, just provide clean water. But getting a horse to drink the approximate 10 gallons of water they need per day, during cold weather, can be quite a challenge at times.
Not only is clean water important in winter, now you have to factor in freezing water, and even the lack of interest in water sometimes due to the horse being cold.
Most owners feed more forage during winter, to keep their horse warm (digestion aids in keeping a horse warm). Due to this, without proper water intake, you could risk colic or other digestive issues. The water helps keep a horse’s digestive tract moving and healthy, as well as keep the horse hydrated.
Keep your horse’s water unfrozen and drinkable. If the water is frozen, the horse can’t even get to it, so this is the most important piece of keeping your horse hydrated. You can either go the free route, and break up the ice multiple times per day, or add hot water to the bucket multiple times per day. Or you can invest in some water heaters (submersible or floating), heated buckets, drain heaters, etc. (depends on your setup). Also, something to keep in mind is a lot of automatic waterers are also heated. Many horses prefer slightly warmer water than usual during cold snaps (Research from the University of Pennsylvania found that horses drank as much as 40% more during cold weather when offered warm water compared with when they were provided water that was near-freezing.)
Make them thirsty. No matter the temperature of the water in winter months, some horses just don’t drink as much, and they need a helping hand. Make sure your horse has a salt lick & mineral lick, you can also feed your horse electrolytes if you are concerned. The salt typically triggers your horse’s thirst and will get them drinking.
Warm Mash. Something to help promote more water intake is feeding your regular grain ration as a warm mash, or getting hay cubes and soaking them in warm water. While this amount of water isn’t enough to replace proper water intake, it will at least help some. The soupier you make it, the better. (Be prepared to get covered in appreciative mash kisses).
Hopefully you can start to use these tips in your horse’s care and keep your horse healthy and hydrated during cold weather. If you have any tips, we’d love to hear them, be sure to comment below! And as always, with any concerns about your horse, your vet should be your number 1 resource!