What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Playing in Water Excessively Without Drinking


Many horses enjoy playing in their water bucket or trough, splashing with their lips and muzzle.

But horses that are ill from a variety of causes will also immerse their muzzle in their water source, and splash incessantly, sometimes for hours. This behavior can be a sign of a severe problem and a reason to look for other signs of illness.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the horse has no appetite and is obviously depressed.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp>101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the behavior continues with no explanation.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Assess the horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to attitude, appetite, rectal temperature, gum color, refill time and heart rate. Offer feed to further observe attitude and appetite. Attempt to walk the horse a short distance to observe ability to move normally.

If you consider this normal behavior for the horse and you see no other signs of illness, it may not be a problem. However, if this is a recent or new behavior or accompanied by any other signs of illness, contact your vet to discuss your findings and concerns.

What Not To Do

Do not assume that this is playful behavior. It can be a sign of a sick horse.

your vet's role

Your vet considers this behavior along with the horse's history, general attitude and appetite, and other physical exam findings.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • When did you first notice this behavior?
  • Is this behavior intermittent, or is your horse staying at the water source and doing it constantly?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

Very Common
more diagnostics

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP