We are used to worrying about our horses drinking enough in the blazing heat of summer, but what less people are aware of is that hydration is also a massive issue for your horses over the winter, as freezing temperatures can put your horse off drinking, leading to complications such as dehydration and colic.
When horses are at pasture, a lot of their daily water requirements are met from eating succulent vegetation, but in the winter when grass is scarce and dry forages such as hay are often the main food source, encouraging your horse to drink is even more vital.
Frozen buckets, drinkers and troughs will all stop your horse from accessing water, so try a few tricks to help stop ice formation: placing a tennis ball in an outside trough can help stop them icing over, packing straw around buckets in stables can help reduce freezing, and insulation around automatic drinker pipes are all useful. In extreme conditions, you can buy heaters for buckets and troughs.
Even when water is ice free, many horses do not enjoy drinking freezing cold water! It has been shown that horses will drink 40% more warmed water than cold in cold weather. If your yard doesn’t have a hot water tap, try adding a kettle full of boiling water to a almost full bucket. The other bonus of providing warm water is that it freezes less quickly! Even though scrubbing out buckets is not appealing in colder weather, it is still vitally important that water is clean and fresh, so provide fresh water in clean buckets daily.
Consider feeding a soaked feed through the winter, such as soaked alfalfa pellets or sugar beet, as this will also increase your horse’s daily water intake. You could also increase your horse’s fibre and water intake by feeding them a fibre block soaked in 5lts of water. Providing a free-access salt lick is also important through the winter, as the salt can help to increase their thirst.
Olivia Colton MSc
Nutritional and Technical Coordinator, Feedmark
If you would like any further information or advice please call our free helpline on 0800 585525 to speak to one of our nutritional advisors, or look at our website.