Water is one of the most important components of your horse’s diet. A horse drinks an average of 25-30 litres of water per day. When they do heavy work, this amount can even increase to 50 litres. It is therefore important that a horse always has unlimited access to clean drinking water. In winter, the cold can sometimes cause problems. In some stables it can be quite a challenge to stop the pipes from freezing over. In addition, the cold water can cause horses to want to drink less, which increases the chance of certain health risks. Here are some tips to get through the winter well.
Check the water supply
Check at least twice a day if your horse still has access to drinking water. With an automatic drinker, it is important to check whether the pipes are not frozen, so test whether water is actually still coming out. Does your horse drink from a bucket? Then check that the top layer is not frozen and break the ice if necessary.
Depending on the system used in your barn, you can take various measures to prevent the pipes from freezing over. In the case of water buckets, the cheapest way is to break the ice every morning and evening. Remove the ice from the bucket, so that the water does not refreeze again as quickly. It may also help to put something in the bucket that floats. The movement that this causes in the water makes the water less likely to freeze over. For example, you can put in some hay or a small block of wood. Do you use a hose to refill your buckets? Then make sure to drain the hose after use.
When using automatic drinkers, there are various products on the market that can heat the drinking water. For example, you can purchase frost-free automatic drinkers with built-in heating elements. A heating cable is another easy way to heat your drinkers. Twist this cable around the pipes to heat them. There are also circulation systems in which the water is heated and circulated through the pipes. Properly insulating the pipes also helps.
Look out for dehydration
Check your horse’s manure and feed bowl. Is the manure dry and hard instead of soft and moist? Has the horse not eaten all their concentrates and roughage? This could be a sign that the horse is not drinking enough water. If your horse drinks from a bucket, you can clearly see how much water they have drunk. In addition, the turgor test is a simple test to see if there is any dehydration. Take a fold of skin between your thumb and index finger, for example on the horse’s neck. When you let go of the fold, the skin should return to its normal shape within one second. If this does not happen and the skin remains wrinkled up, this may be a sign of dehydration.
Is your horse not drinking enough?
- Heat the water: It’s not that horses don’t drink ice cold water. Research has even shown that if horses had a choice between warm and cold water, they would opt for ice-cold water. This would have to do with the instinct that cold water would be fresher and there is less risk of contamination. But it is true that horses are less likely to drink cold water than warm water. So if your horse needs more water, offer warmer (7-10 degrees Celsius) water.
- Encourage the horse to drink: there are several ways you can encourage a horse to drink more water. For example, you could feed mash or beetroot mash, or put pieces of apple in the water bucket. By eating this, the horse will ingest extra fluids.
Snow is not a good water source
It takes a horse a lot of energy to melt snow and this makes it more difficult for the horse to maintain their body temperature. In addition, a horse has to eat large amounts of snow to meet their daily water needs. They are very unlikely to do so. If your horse is outside 24/7 and a lot of snow has fallen, don’t assume that they are getting enough fluids. Always provide a good, clean water source.