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How to Make a Horse Drink Water
 By Winniefield Park   •   28th Mar 2015   •   2,352 views   •   0 comments
How to Make a Horse Drink Water

You Can Lead a Horse To Water... but you can’t make him drink. You might not be able to force your horse to drink, but you can certainly encourage it to. Horses usually serve themselves when they feel inclined to drink, but there are a few strategies you can use to encourage your horse to drink at times when it might not want to. First of all, make sure your horse has salt. Don’t jump into using electrolytes unless there’s a real need.

Water Temperature
Horses can be sensitive to the temperature of their water. Very cold water may be uncomfortable to drink. This can be a problem in the winter, when buckets may get frosty, or troughs ice over. When horses eat dry hay, and don’t take in enough water, it can cause impaction colic. Horses get a lot of their moisture from pasture grass, and this moisture may not be replaced by water. It’s important summer or winter, to provide water at a drinkable temperature. A 2000 University of Michigan study found that horses liked water at 20C, year round. So while you might enjoy a glass of ice water on a hot day, your horse might like its water a little on the warm side. Putting a heater in your trough in the winter, or using heated buckets is a good way to keep water drinkable in the winter. Adding hot water to a bucket of cold may be helpful. Too warm might not be good either. Putting troughs or buckets in the shade in the summer can prevent the water from getting tepid. And, it will help dissuade algae growth.

Related: Do Horses Feet Get Cold
Related: How and Why Horses Sleep Standing Up
Related: Understanding Horse Urine
Related: Reasons for Sudden Death in Horses

Taste
We’ve all had a glass of water from somewhere and thought, yuck, this tastes terrible. Your horse might feel the same way. Horses get used to the taste of water at home, and then won’t drink at an event because the water tastes funny. There are two ways to cope with this. You can easily take water from home. We have a large cherry barrel we fill and put on the back of the truck when we’re going to be gone for the day, and know we’ll need a lot of water.

Or, you can put flavoring, like unsweetened drink mix in the water. Start doing this a few weeks ahead of time, so your horse gets used to the flavor of the water. Then take the packets of flavoring along with you when you go to an event to put in the water you get there. You can also try herbal tea bags, a bit of molasses, cider, or specially made horse drink mixes. Just be sure you don’t give your horse anything too sugary, or anything that might give it a stomach ache.

Discomfort and Fear
Sometimes horses don’t drink enough because a stomach full of water is uncomfortable. Or, they don’t drink because it hurts to swallow the water down. Dental problems, infected gums or stomach ulcers can make drinking uncomfortable. Get to know your horse’s drinking habits so you know when somethings not right.

Approaches to natural water sources can be too slippery or rocky, so be sure your horse has an alternative. Also, be sure that your natural water sources are clean, and know that if anyone dumps anything in upstream, it can cause a problem if your horse drinks the water. If your horse seems afraid of its heated bucket or trough, suspect tingle voltage. Tingle voltage is harmless, but scary and may keep your horse from drinking. An electrician can help you find the source and ground it properly.
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