Winter poses new problems when it comes to keeping your horse hydrated. Many horse owners find it easy to be vigilant about hydration when the temperatures are high, but it’s just as important to watch your horse’s intake during the winter months. In fact, the combination of colder temperatures, frigid winds and fresh blankets of snow may cause the reduction of fresh water supplies available for your horse.
With the increasing demands that the decreasing temperatures have on their system, horses will increase their food consumption in order to maintain their body temperatures and weight. However, at the same time, horses also tend to decrease their water intake during the winter.
One of the greatest concerns of this decrease in water intake along with the increase in consumption leads to a greater occurrence of impaction and colic. So the question remains, how do you ensure that your horse is getting enough water?
In a research project conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, ponies were offered warm water and near-freezing water. When the ponies were offered the warm water, they drank a significant forty percent more water. They also found that the statistic remained the same whether the ponies were offered water that was kept warm constantly, or if their drinking buckets were simply filled with warm water twice daily. The ponies drank the most water within three hours of feeding or after their water containers were refilled.
Water should be maintained between 45 and 65°F and any ice crystals should be removed. Water should be checked twice daily and provided at all times, as horses will drink 8 to 12 gallons a day.
Snow is not a good substitute for fresh clean water. 6-10 more snow must be consumed for an equal amount of water and calories are used by the horse to melt the snow.
Placing a stock tank or barrel in the barn on top of straw or shavings while surrounding the sides with bales of straw can help to insulate the container and provide a reservoir of water to be replenished regularly.
Please offer any information or tips that you may have about keeping your horses hydrated during the winter for the readers of this blog.