How to Get Your Horse to Drink More Water in the Winter


The weather here in Maryland has been up and down in the past two months. One day it’s 65 degrees and beautiful fall weather and the next day it’s 32 degrees and freezing.

It’s been crazy for us humans as one day we feel like wearing shorts and a t-shirt and then the next day we have to wear a thick winter jacket and gloves. We call it “flu weather” here because with all the changes up and down, it’s easy for us to get sick.

But it isn’t just crazy for us, it’s also hard on our horses. One day they are growing a thick winter coat and the next it seems to be falling out.

Crazy weather can also wreak havok on our horse’s eating and drinking habits. Which can then cause issues with colic.

Water is a major preventative measure against colic.

And it is easy to manage if done properly. However, most horse owners don’t monitor their horse’s water intake eventhough they should, especially in the winter.

I don’t know about you, but drinking cold water in the winter is tough for me and I know my horses don’t really like it much either. Because of this, I’ve noticed that in the cold winter months my horses drink less.

However, horses need more water in the winter.

The main goal in any type of weather should always be to maximize the amount of water your horse drinks to help prevent dehydration and colic. Most 1,000-pound adult horses need at least 10 to 12 gallons of water per day.

As winter begins, it’s a good idea to provide your horse with warm water every day. The water should be between 45˚ and 65˚ F. Check your water supply throughout the day to make sure it hasn’t iced over or become too cold.

During the summer months, lush pastures contain 60 to 80 percent moisture and can contribute to your horse’s water requirement. But, in the winter you have dried feed such as grain and hay which contain less than 15 percent moisture. Because of this, your horse requires more water in the winter.

If your horse doesn’t drink enough water during cold weather months they may eat less and therefore be more prone to impaction colic. This is when it’s actually more important to watch your horses intake of water – in the winter.

Even if you offer quality feed, top notch grain, and hay in the pasture, your horse will still eat less if he is not drinking enough water.

And if your horse eats less food, he might not have enough energy to tolerate the cold. And again this would be another health issue.

Water intake is very important to your horse’s health and wellbeing.

There are two things that I do in the winter to make sure my horses get enough water.

1. The first thing I do is make sure they have water that isn’t frozen solid.

An easy way to do this is to clean the ice out of the water trough regularly to ensure that your horse has all the drinking water he/she needs.

Another thing I do is to put bottles of salt water in the outside water troughs to keep them from freezing solid. Some of the water troughs close to the barn have electric heaters to make sure the water doesn’t freeze solid as well.

You can watch this video and try my saltwater in a bottle trick and see how it works for you. The larger the trough, the larger the bottle of water and the more salt in the bottle you will need.

This works with my large pasture water toughs as well as the smaller water buckets inside the run-in sheds.

2. The second thing is to make sure they actually drink enough water.

To do this, I give them a seasonal tea that I mix with water that they just love. It helps keep their belly warm and increases their water intake. Therefore, helping them on a number of levels.

Here is a video showing you how I make this seasonal tea for my horses. In the winter I’ll use warm water to mix it.

Water is also important for your horse as it maintains your horse’s fecal moisture level. If fecal material becomes too dry, intestinal blockage or impaction may occur and cause colic. A horse won’t develop an impaction in one day but he can over several days to several weeks if he has poor water intake.

It’s definitely something to watch, for sure.

Paying attention to how much water your horse drinks, how much your horse eats, and how much manure he leaves behind and what it looks like are all very important measures in keeping our horses healthy and happy.

Do you have any other winter tips for your horse that you’d like to share? Please let us know in the Comments below. Thanks!

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