Horses need between 5 – 10 gallons (19 – 38 Liters) of water a day to stay healthy and hydrated; that’s a lot of water! in both the hot and the cold months, horses don’t always meet this quota, which can cause them to become dehydrated. There are ways to help your horse get the proper amount of water they need.
How do you get a horse to drink more water? Here is a list of some of the most common ways to get a horse to intake more fluids:
- Make sure your horse has easy access to water
- Lead your horse to their water source
- Put electrolytes in your horse’s food
- Give your horse some salt
- Wet down your horse’s feed
- Put apples in your horse’s water
- Use a syringe to put water into your horse’s mouth
Water is the most crucial substance for survival, so ensuring that your horse is getting the proper intake amounts is important. It’s been a particularly hot summer where I live, and we’ve had a few horses get overheated and dehydrated already. Knowing how to act immediately to increase the horse’s water intake in these situations can save you and your horse from a lot of trouble.
Make Sure Your Horse Has Easy Access to Water
The first and most important thing to remember when trying to get your horse to drink more water is to make sure your horse has easy access to water. If your horse lives in a pasture, make sure that the water tubs are in a visible and accessible place.
The place I usually see water tubs in a horse’s pasture is right by the gate; that way, it’s the first thing the horse sees when it’s turned out. In a pasture, you have multiple horses drinking from one water tub, which can drain that tub pretty fast. That’s why it’s always important that someone check the pasture’s water tubs at least twice daily.
If your horse goes in a stall, make sure they at least have a 5-gallon water bucket hanging on the wall. I’ve known horses that will drain that one bucket in a few hours; if that happens, hang a second 5-gallon bucket in there as well.
Lead Your Horse to Their Water Source
Have you ever heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink?” Well, I’m not quite sure how accurate this saying is. The first thing I always do when I go get my horse from the pasture is to lead him over to the water tub and let him get a drink.
If your horse lives in a particularly large pasture, it isn’t always going to get water when it needs to. If the herd of pasture horses is grazing far from the water source, a horse will usually never make the journey by itself to go get a drink. It’ll wait for the rest of the horses to meander closer to the water tub before it does so.
Make it a habit of any time you go into your horse’s pasture you lead your horse over to the water tub. If your horse gulps down water as if it hasn’t drunk anything in a while, then you know that your horse probably isn’t getting as much water as it should. This will help you take the proper steps to increase your horse’s water intake.
Put Electrolytes in Your Horse’s Food
Have you ever wondered why so many people drink Gatorade after a hard workout? They drink Gatorade in order to replenish their electrolytes! Electrolytes are minerals that every living thing needs in its system. according to this website, they help to regulate the fluid levels in your body.
If your horse is dehydrated or not getting enough to drink, it needs more electrolytes to help keep water in its system. Intaking electrolytes will also cause your horse to be thirsty more, which will lead them to drink more often.
By putting electrolytes in your horse’s feed, you can increase their electrolyte intake and replenish the balance of water in their system. Horse Health Apple-Dex (see the price here on Amazon) is an electrolyte product you can use to mix in with your horse’s feed. I have used this with my horses and seen how their water intake immediately increases.
Give Your Horse Some Salt
Salt is a natural electrolyte that will encourage your horse to drink more water. Horses naturally love salt! If you’ve ever wondered why your horse licks your hands even when you don’t have any treats, it’s because they can taste the salt that your skin naturally contains.
There are a few different ways to give your horse salt. The most popular way is by providing them with a salt block, a large solid block of salt that you can stick out in their field or in their stall. I particularly recommend using the Himalayan Salt Lick (see the price on Amazon) which my horses seem to really love.
Another option for getting your horse to intake salt is by sprinkling salt over their feed. This option is probably more effective than the salt block because the horses will eat it regardless since it’s in their food. For this method, I use Redmond Loose Mineral Salt. This particular salt offers other healthy minerals for my horse to ingest.
Wet Down Your Horse’s Feed
Another sure-fire way to make your horse ingest more water is by adding water to their feed. Most horses will eat their grain no matter what; it’s the thing they look most forward to during their entire day!
If your horse is dehydrated and needs to consume water, making a mash out of grain and water is a great way to get water into their system.
If you’d like to increase your horse’s water intake in general, you can add food to your horse’s diet that should be soaked in water. Alfalfa pellets and beet pulp are feed options that horses love but also required water in order to make it easier for the horse to eat.
Alfalfa pellets and beet pulp can be bought at any local feed store. Both are considered common feed options for horses.
Put Apples in Your Horse’s Water
Horses tend to get dehydrated when traveling or competing because there isn’t always direct access to water and the horse may feel too stressed to drink. To keep your horse hydrated while on the road, offer them water frequently.
If you’re at a competition and your horse just isn’t accepting the water you’re offering to them, try cutting up and apple and putting the pieces in the water bucket. Horses love treats, so more than likely your horse will go after the bobbing apple in the water bucket.
When your horse tries to get the apple out of the water bucket, it will naturally intake some water. Your horse will be so focused on the treat that it won’t even realize that you got it to drink water!
Use a Syringe to Put Water Into Your Horse’s Mouth
I recently found my friend’s horse laying in the field, acting lethargic, and overheated. It was an especially hot and humid day. We got him up, hosed him off, and tried a number of different ways to get him to drink some water; however, he refused all of our attempts.
Since it was a dire situation and the horse was refusing every attempt we tried in order to get him to drink some water, we ended up taking a big syringe, filling it with water, and squirting the water into his mouth. After we did this awhile, he became more accepting, and we were able to get him to drink from a bucket.
If your horse won’t drink water or even take medicine, using a syringe to get it into the horse’s mouth works great for getting the substance to be ingested. Sometimes animals don’t know what’s good for them and what’s bad for them. That’s why it’s our job as horse owners to care for their well-being.
If you’d like to be able to tell when your horse is too hot, check out our article, How to Tell if a Horse is Too Hot.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Tell If My Horse is Dehydrated?
If your horse is dehydrated, there will be very clear signs to look for. They are as follows:
The Horse Will Be Lethargic
Just like humans, if a horse isn’t getting enough to drink it will feel weak, sluggish and tired. If you notice that your horse is missing their usual spunk, then you can assume that something is probably wrong.
The pinch test can help you to determine if your horse has enough fluids in their system or not. Do this test by pinching the skin on the horse’s neck. Pull the skin and slightly twist while you pinch. Let the skin go.
If the skin quickly bounces back where you can’t even tell that you pinched them then you can assume that your horse has enough fluids. If the skin takes a few seconds to return to normal, then the horse is most likely dehydrated.
Capillary Refill Test
This is another test to determine whether or not your horse is dehydrated. Take your thumb and press it against your horse’s gums, just above their teeth. Hold your thumb for 10 seconds. Remove your thumb. When you do this, you’ll notice how your thumb made a white thumbprint on your horse’s gums.
If the white thumbprint on the gum returns to normal color within 2 seconds, then your horse has enough fluids. If it takes longer for the thumbprint to refill with color, then your horse can be dehydrated.
Maybe your horse is taking in water just fine; but what if your horse can not gain weight no matter what you try? Check out our article Why Your Horse Isn’t Gaining Weight and What to Do About It.