Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price
Horses need six nutrients: water, carbohydrates, protein and fat. Each one of these nutrients is essential, but water is the king of all.
A horse can survive for nearly a month without food. However, a horse that isn’t given water within 48 hours can develop signs of colic. They can also experience lethargy and impaction and potentially even death. Peter Huntington, B.V.Sc.M.A.C.V.Sc. director of nutrition at Kentucky Equine Research Australia (Australia), shares that horses can only survive for about five days without water.
These five tips will help you ensure that your horse receives the right amount and quality water all year.
1. Horses typically consume between 5-15 gallons (approximately 20 to 55 liters) of water per 24-hour period. If you fill five-gallon buckets twice or three times per day, it is easy to monitor the horse’s water intake. It is more difficult to monitor water intake if a horse is on pasture or with a herd of horses on pasture.
Huntington advises that Hydration can be easily assessed by feeling the gums of individuals in a herd and then pinching a small amount of skin on their necks or shoulders to see if it bounces back to its normal position.”
2. Horses that are kept in fields get moisture from the pasture. Fresh pasture has 60-80% moisture. This means that horses get a lot of water from their grazing. Baled hay, concentrates and grains have much less moisture. Horses need to drink more water to meet their water requirements. Pecking order is another important factor in a herd situation. Consider adding another trough if you suspect one or more horses may be being chased from the water trough.
3. Water consumption can be affected by weather and exercise. Horses tend to drink more water in the summer heat. However, horses may drink more water in winter than they do in summer. This is because the forages are generally less nutritious and have less moisture. Horses are unique and require different amounts of water.
4. Water consumption can be affected by health conditions. Increased water loss from the body due to chronic renal disease or diarrhea can be a problem. These horses will require extra water to aid recovery and improve their quality of life.
5. Horses should not have their primary water source from “natural” sources like streams or lakes. Although they can choose to drink water from these sources, they should still be provided with fresh water. It is impossible to guarantee the quality of streams or ponds. Pollution and algae blooms can also impact their safety at different times of the year. If the shores of streams or ponds are muddy, horses may have trouble accessing water.