Understanding Horse Urine
 By Winniefield Park   •   16th Dec 2014   •   4,602 views   •   0 comments
Understanding Horse Urine

The ground is covered in a blanket of white. It looks pristine and clean. Then you go out to check your horses. There on the otherwise unmarked snow is an alarming reddish colored stain. What is the cause? Is something terribly wrong with your horse? Is it dehydrated or is that dark urine stain a sign of a horrible medical problem? The answer is no. And you've just asked a question that many horse owners have in the winter time.

What you're seeing is the result of oxidation, the same process responsible for rust on fence wire and the brown that develops on an apple that's been sliced and allowed to sit awhile. This is also why your horse's wet stall bedding might look rusty. It's perfectly normal and not a cause for concern. The urine didn't come out of your horse that color. It was probably quite clear or yellowish. But as it sat exposed to the air, it turned dark and reddish.

Another discoloration you might see when your horse urinates is cloudiness. This is caused by calcium crystals and not a cause for concern. You may notice that your horse's urine appears rather thick and it usually foams when it hits the ground. This too is normal, and is caused by mucous in the urine. This mucous helps prevent calcium from binding and causing problems in the urinary tract.

When should you be alarmed? If the urine coming out of your horse is a dark coffee color, it can be a sign that your horse has tied up. Tying up can happen after hard exercise or as a result of illness. It's also a sign that you need to call the veterinarian. The dark particulate in the urine is shed blood or muscles cells and it indicates that something very serious has happened.

If your horse's urine is only slightly darker than normal, it may mean your horse isn't drinking enough or it's finished some hard exercise. Horses often drink less in the winter, just when they are eating dry fodder and should be drinking more. This can lead to impaction colic and over the long term cause a drop in condition. This is why it's as important to provide clean fresh water all winter, as you would during warmer weather.

Related: Sand Colic
Related: Does My Horse Have Colic

Studies have shown that horses like their water on the warm side, no matter what the season. Not only will they drink more, but some horses will get spasmodic colic if they drink a belly full of ice water. Drinking water from a pond or stream in winter might not be enough for many horses. And, no, horses can not thrive eating snow for their moisture. This will drive their body temperature down and it's almost impossible for them to get enough water. Melt a bucket full of snow and measure how much water is left and you'll see why eating snow isn't sufficient.

Mixing a bucket of hot tap water into a bucket of cold water may help encourage your horse to drink more in winter. Or, you could try heated water buckets, bowls or a heater in the trough. And keep an eye on your horse's urine. Learning what is normal is essential to understanding what is not.
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