Water is essential for both horses and humans. It aids horses in the digestion of nutrients, the regulation of body temperature, is necessary for muscle contractions and strengthening as well as joint lubrication, and aids in the elimination of waste. Without a supply of clean water horses are in danger of becoming dehydrated. Due to diminished blood volume, the cells of severely dehydrated horses cannot be supplied with oxygen and nutrients nor can waste products be removed from the body. Dehydration affects every organ.
But what steps can you take to encourage a horse that isn’t drinking to take on water? Traveling to a show or bringing a new horse home are instances where a horse might turn down unfamiliar water. Here are six easy, tried and true tips that I’ve learned over the years to encourage a picky drinker to replenish his water supply:
- A few days prior to the change, begin flavoring your horse’s water with powdered drink mixes or even fruit flavored liquid drinks. You may have to experiment a bit to see what flavor your horse enjoys most. Once you arrive at your destination, continue adding his favorite mix. It will make it more familiar and aid in covering the unfamiliar scent of the different water.
- Always bring your own water buckets and provide a constant supply of clean water. Bringing your own equipment will be something familiar for your horse and can help decrease the spread of disease. When filling the bucket, consider that some studies have shown that horses prefer water of a certain temperature. It may helpful to let the water sit outside and warm a bit before offering it to your horse.
- Adding salt or electrolytes to the water can make a horse thirstier and encourage him to drink. Experiment with this at home to see if it works for your horse.
- The inclusion of treats to the water can also help. Slices of fruit that float or other treats that sink to the bottom of the bucket can encourage a horse to ingest water as he seeks them out.
- Soaking your horse’s feed or allowing him to hand graze can also replenish a portion of the water he needs.
- Finally, some owners find it feasible to simply haul water from home especially if their trip will not be a lengthy one.