Last Updated on March 11, 2022 by Allison Price
Winter presents a new set of challenges for horse owners, including snowballs in their feet and protection from the elements. One thing that most owners forget to think about is keeping their horse hydrated. Most horses need more water in winter than they do in summer. This is because their winter feedstuffs can be dry, so they don’t get enough water from their food. Here are some ways to make sure your horse isn’t starving in cold weather.
Freezing Water Troughs
We make sure that horses have clean water at all times. Winter is a different story. Water from the sky could freeze into snow and water on the ground might also be frozen, including your horse’s water bowl. If his water trough freezes, he won’t be able to drink.
Your horse can suffer from health problems if he is left without water even for a few hours. Colic is a common problem caused by frozen water troughs. The lack of water can cause food to become stuck in horses’ stomachs. Impaction colic can lead to a torsion (twist), or perforation (hole), which can both be fatal.
Frozen water troughs can even cause death in areas with low temperatures for several days or weeks. Three days without water will result in permanent health problems; one week would mean that your horse is dead. While it is vital that your horse has access to water at all times, not everyone can afford a heated drinking water source. What can you do to prevent water from freezing?
Tips and ideas for keeping water fluids hydrated
* Cover the water trough with a thick and dark (preferably black). tarpaulin. Make a hole about 6 inches by 6 inches for your horse’s nose, and then add bricks to the tarp. The dark tarp can trap heat from the sun inside the trough, which could keep the tarp warm through the night in moderate climates. However, some horses may be curious and sly enough to try out the tarp. They might end up destroying or turning over the tarpaulin.
* Add Molasses water to your horse. The sweet taste of the molasses will encourage your horse to drink more and act as mild antifreeze. You should be careful with sugar as it can cause your horse to become overweight, frisky and prone for laminitis. Some horses won’t drink the molasses-laced water. Make sure your horse is not drinking the molasses water. Also, make sure you provide clean water every day.
Automatic Waterers are dangerous. They can freeze in winter and stop your horse from getting water. The ice in the pipes can cause them to burst and leak when thawed. Automatic waterers should be checked several times per day to make sure they are working properly. If your climate is extremely harsh, it’s not a good idea to use them in winter.
* Place a basketball into your horse’s trough. Make sure to thoroughly clean it before you do so. Horses will enjoy it. The wind will blow it up and down and break up the thin layers of ice.
You can place your trough in a hole in the ground, or in an old stock container. Then, insulate with straw, straw, hay or polystyrene foam. For extra insulation, use expanding foam. Although it won’t completely keep the cold out of the water, it can keep the edge off in moderate temperatures. You should seal the foam with dirt or soil to prevent your horse from chewing on it. These plastics can be extremely harmful if they are swallowed by your horse.
* Elbow grease remains the best solution. Although it takes time and labor, breaking the ice twice daily and adding a bucket full of piping hot water to your horse’s water supply are the best ways to make sure that they are still hydrated.
How to Increase Your Winter Water Consumption
* Use a sturdy, heavy duty water trough. Steel is the best because it expands along with the ice making it almost impossible for your horse’s to break. Many horses will attempt to paw at the trough with their front hooves if it ices over or is too cold. This can easily cause damage to lightweight plastic tubs.
A second option to an automatic water heater is to add hot water to the horse’s trough twice daily, breaking up any ice as you go. You can try all of these methods to find the one that works for you. Just make sure your horse gets enough water.