Water Consumption in Winter

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With the approach of winter comes the increased threat of impaction colic to our horses out there. Impaction colic cases increase when the weather turns cold, mainly because the animals are not drinking enough water and staying hydrated. It’s easy to remember during the hot, sweaty summer that your horse needs lots of fresh water but this is just as important during the cold months.

An adult horse needs between 5 and 10 gallons of water per day to stay hydrated. In the winter, most horses are surviving on hay which has significantly less water than fresh forage (pasture), so they will need to get more of that water from their buckets or troughs. Heated buckets and stock tank heaters are a good way to keep your water from freezing and encourage your horses to drink. Horses will do most of their drinking within 3 hours of feeding…keep this is in mind when thinking about your watering schedule and temperature. Knowing this can help you make sure that the water is warm enough when the animals are actually interested in drinking.

Another way to encourage water consumption is to offer free-choice salt or add electrolytes to your horse’s feed. This can be especially important when the weather is changing drastically, which we are all to familiar with here in eastern North Carolina. Be sure to check with your vet on appropriate amounts for your animal!

Water is the most important nutrient for all livestock, including horses. Make sure your horses are consuming enough water during these winter months and encourage consumption with salt, electrolytes, or a mash (especially for those older horses) when it’s cold outside!