Keeping horses hydrated as temperatures plummet can be tricky, especially if you have multiple fields and waterers, horses that are divas or aged equines on your farm (which encompasses about every one of us!).
By Sarah E. Coleman
It’s common knowledge that impaction colic cases rise in the winter, when horses tend to drink less, especially when water tends to be ice cold. So, what can you do to help prevent dehydration in your steed? Here are some common (and not-so-common) ways to try to get as much water as possible into his system:
- Put his food near his water, especially if it’s round bales or hay fed on the ground. Horses tend to drink the most right after they eat, so placing water within easy reach makes it even more likely he’ll take a drink after dinner.
- Experiment with adding flavorings to your horse’s water, like apple cider vinegar, peppermint oil, drink powders or apple juice.
- Add electrolytes to his diet. While many of us give our horses electrolytes in the summer when the heat is on and the competition calendar full, electrolytes can also benefit your horse in the winter, as well, by encouraging water intake.
- Soak his hay if he eats in a stall or if the weather will be above freezing.
- Consider feeding soaked beet pulp or alfalfa cubes (but be sure to feed only as much as he can eat before it freezes).
- Add warm water to his bucket, trough or automatic waterer a few times a day.
- If you can’t use a heated water bucket or stock tank deicer where your horses are located, consider surrounding your trough with straw bales or covering as much of the tank as possible (while leaving a hole for the horses to drink from) to slow ice formation.
- Top dress his feed with non-iodized salt; commercial grain and vitamin supplements have enough iodine in them already, so additional iodine is not necessary.
- Consider dropping apple or carrot pieces in the bucket to encourage him to drink the water in it to get to the treats.
- While scrubbing buckets in the cold is no fun, it’s important that your horse’s buckets be clean to entice him to drink.