- Clare Long
(From Clare's article archives, Circa 2010-2015)
With horses, water is really the very most important thing to keeping them well.
As we are all painfully aware: no water, no horse.
Here are some important Helpful Hints to keeping your horse drinking enough, hydrated and healthy.
Never take your horse away from water when he is drinking!
If you go into your horse's paddock with the intention of taking them out, and they are drinking, wait until they are done!
Horses often forget to drink, so their time drinking is sacred time.
Do not assume that they will finish when you return them to their living space.
Sometimes, when returned to their bedrooms, they are distracted, or have been fed a meal and are more interested in eating than drinking.
Let them drink their fill now.
It will not kill you to wait an extra minute or two for such an important thing.
It is common for a horse to 'forget' to drink.
So, remind them often!
When you go into their paddock or stall, wander over to the water and splash it around.
Sometimes that is enough to entice them to have a drink.
Especially when it is cold, horses tend to not drink enough.
That is, unfortunately, why vets are kept much busier when the weather gets very cold.
I have found the best, most effective solution to that issue is a bit of exercise, every day.
Even if it is simply a quick: walk, trot, canter 'free school' in the round pen, or a light hack under saddle, or an easy longe.
Enough to get their blood and lungs going.
After your horse moves around a bit, in cold weather, they will usually remember to drink their fill when they return to their bedrooms.
Always, when returning, lead them straight to the water, to encourage them to remember.
(Often, horses will drink their fill after schooling, no matter what the environmental conditions.
Of course, you all know to have them well cooled out before they are allowed to drink.)
When you put your horse into a new living space, always physically show them where the water is, and make certain that they are comfortable with the water source.
Meaning, be sure, if it is an auto fill waterer, that your horse is OK with the sound of the water refilling!
Sometimes, that hissing sound will scare them.
If it does, be sure to give them a full water bucket as a back-up source.
Avoid anything that discourages your horse from drinking!
If your horse does not like drinking out of an auto waterer, give them a bucket!
Muck buckets make for excellent water buckets.
They are large enough that your horse can really drink their fill, but small enough that you can empty and clean them out daily, without wasting too much water.
That leads me to:
Please be sure your horse always has clean, fresh water!
Of course, it doesn't have to be sparkling clean, every moment.
It doesn't have to be clean enough for a human to drink out of.
But it should be clean enough that it tastes good to your horse, and encourages them to drink their fill.
Super stale, algae filled, dusty on the top, water does not encourage a horse to drink.
And that leads me to my next point:
The bigger the water bucket, the harder it is to keep it clean!
The big, huge, metal or rubber troughs are problematic, when it comes to keeping them clean.
Obviously, you don't want to dump them out when they are full, as it is a profound waste of water.
But, letting them get low, before emptying and cleaning, creates water that is dirty and not enticing for your horse.
Also, the lower the water level, the more your horse has to put effort into drinking.
Which leads me to:
The worst thing you can do is make your horse have to "work" for their water.
You want water to be easily accessible, pleasant, tasty and enjoyable.
That is how to keep your horse gravitating to it, and drinking enough to avoid problems.
I find keeping the water bucket full all the way to the very top makes the horse want to drink the most.
You will discover this fact for yourself as well.
Horses love to drink out of full, fresh, large water buckets.
I find that they will, if happy and relaxed, drink down 20-30 large, deep gulps at a time.
That leads to hydrated, healthy horses, which leads away from vet calls!
It is extremely important that your horse has a large enough water source that they can shove their whole muzzle in, and slurp down their fill.
I highly DO NOT recommend the small auto waterers!
In my opinion, they can be extremely problematic!
Too small an amount of water for a horse to be able to freely drink their fill.
All too often, I see a horse get bored, or impatient, or distracted while waiting for the refilling, and walk away.
The big bucket auto waterers are much better, but a muck bucket cleaned and filled every day is even better.
If you are going to hang flat-backed water buckets, be sure your horse has two full ones. One is not enough.
OK, so, I think that is enough to get us started.
I will add to this subject later, if I think of anything else.
Happy horse time!