Horses should drink at least 1 gallon per hundred pounds per day. A typical 1000 lb horse therefore drinks 10 gallons on average per day. The urge to drink is mediated by a part of the brain and relates to the amount of salt relative to water within the blood.
Sometimes, it is advantageous for a horse owner or caretaker to be able to stimulate thirst. Occasionally, horses simply do not consume enough water for their own good, especially when they are traveling or are suffering from illness.
The following are a few suggested approaches. You can try them alone or in combination to see if they work with your horse.
1. Give the horse a dose of commercial electrolyte paste per the instructions on the tube. If you do not have a commercial paste, then mix 1 teaspoon of table salt with 2 tablespoons of applesauce, yogurt, or water and squirt it on the back of your horse's tongue using a syringe. Alternatively, try a teaspoon of corn syrup.
2. Mix one bucket of room temperature water with a commercial electrolyte product labeled for equine use, per the instructions on the packet or jar. Always give your horse access to one bucket of plain water so that they have a choice.
3. Offer warm water (about 120 degrees) in a new bucket. Some horses prefer to drink warm water, especially when the weather is cold. Always give your horse access to one bucked of cold or room temperature water so that they have a choice.
4. Swap out the bucket that you are using, and hang a new one in your horse’s stall in a different location. Novelty may do the trick.
5. Take your horse on a hand walk, if possible. Sometimes a change of scene will renew a horse's interest in water.
6. Horses that have just eaten will often want to drink water afterward.
Keep track of the amount of water that your horse drinks over time and share this information with your vet.
Tips for safety & Success
If you use automatic waterers, it is difficult to determine how much water your horse is drinking.
During time of illness, you may want to water your horse out of buckets so that you can monitor the amount of their water intake.
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