When freezing temperatures and frost starts to arrive. many horse owners become concerned about their horse’s water intake. Here are some tips from our equine nutrition team to encourage your horse to drink healthy levels of water through the colder months.
Water is a vital part of any horse’s diet, on average they require 6 – 12 gallons per day and it is important to make sure they remain hydrated all year round. Dehydration is a problem we usually associate with sweating in the hot summer months but at this time of year it becomes a problem due to the lack of water available to our horses . During the winter months we rely on conserved forages and concentrates to provide our horses with energy. Hay, grain and non-growing forage typically contain less than 15% moisture whereas growing forages typically contain 60-80% moisture. Therefore, when horses are consuming winter rations, this also causes water requirements to increase substantially.
A good way of testing whether your horse is dehydrated is to use the capillary refill test – press your finger over the jugular vein in the neck and release, the time it should take to refill should be around 1 second. Any longer than this and it is likely that your horse is lacking water.
Studies have shown that horses are 40% more likely to drink a healthy amount if the water is warm. Breaking and removing ice when buckets and troughs are frozen over and warming water slightly between 7-18 oC will encourage intakes as horses tend to be put off drinking extremely cold water. Salt also stimulates the thirst mechanism so providing a salt block is key to not only ensuring replenishment of electrolytes but also encourages a horse to drink. Also including unmolassed sugar beet in your horse’s diet, for not only a good source of fibre but it is also a great way to increase the moisture content of her feed.
Another good point to raise here is that snow is often relied upon as a water source but in actual fact horses would need to consume several times the volume of snow in order to obtain the same volume of water. So it is vitally important that a defrosted water source is available to your horse at all times and particularly around meal times where studies have shown an increase in water intake.
For further nutritional advice please contact our EquiClinic on 08700 606206 or email us your question to firstname.lastname@example.org