Your Horse’s Water Needs
Dehydration can cause impaction colics. Horses should drink at least a gallon of water per 100 pounds of body weight. This translates into about 10 gallons of water per day for an average-sized horse just hanging around the pasture. If your horse is exercising hard on a humid summer day, she could need 4 times that amount.
Dehydration-caused impaction colic is more common in winter because horses don’t like ice-cold water. Use a stock tank heater to bring the temperature up to a more palatable temperature.
When traveling, bring water from home if possible. Horses can be picky about strange water and, combined with the stress of travel, can set the stage for colic.
Know the signs and symptoms of equine dehydration. In mild cases, careful cool-down and equine electrolyte supplementation will restore your horse. Severe cases require a veterinarian’s attention.
How To Get Your Horse To Drink More Water?
During hot, humid weather, your horse may not drink enough water to prevent dehydration. Hard work in hot, humid conditions will lead to fluid loss, but even an idle horse in a hot, unventilated stall is at risk.
And don’t forget about winter dehydration. Dehydration colic—usually impaction colic—is more common in winter than summer! As a precaution, know the symptoms of equine dehydration and learn to give your horse the pinch test to determine if she is becoming dehydrated.
Combat horse dehydration with these simple techniques.
- Make sure he has enough water. An idle horse needs a minimum of ten gallons of water a day and an active horse may need up to 25 gallons.
- Be sure your horse’s water is clean and easy to access. Leaves, bugs, and slime won’t encourage your horse to drink.
- Soak his hay before feeding. One wet-down flake of hay can absorb 1-2 gallons of water. Well-soaked hay can make a real impact on his fluid consumption.
- Offer fresh grass, watery bran mash, and moisture-rich treats such as carrots, apples, or watermelon. Juicy and delicious!
- Allow your horse access to a clean salt block. A bit of natural salt will increase equine water consumption.
- Combine 1 teaspoon salt with 2 tablespoons of applesauce. Put it in a syringe or deworming tube and shoot it in his mouth. This salty-sweet combo will stimulate thirst.
- Try squirting 1 tablespoon of corn syrup into his mouth. It will coat his tongue and compel her to drink.
- If his water is very cold, try adding some warm water to the bucket. In winter, be sure to use a stock tank heater. Use a pool thermometer to take a temperature reading. It should be above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Some horses don’t like “different” water. If you’re going on the road with your horse, try to add a little apple juice, sugar beet water, or apple cider vinegar to the water a few days prior to travel. When you add it to the “new” water at your destination, it may help to disguise the flavor.
- Exercise! A 15-minute walk or a light ride will stimulate thirst. Check with your vet before exercising if he is recovering from horse dehydration.
Moderate dehydration can be reversed by allowing the horse unlimited access to water and electrolyte supplementation.
Severe and dangerous dehydration can best be reversed by giving electrolyte fluid intravenously. Contact your vet if your horse is severely dehydrated.
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