Do horses drink more water in winter?

Horse rides are never exciting and memorable in winter—or as one would expect—unless the animals are kept in good health. This involves deworming the animals according to results from faecal analysis (because there are different types of worms), and making sure that their overall health condition is stable. But achieving a high level of healthcare demands more than these.

Horse drinking water (Image Credit: Pixabay)

The Minnesota Pet and Companion Animal Welfare Act acknowledged that improved care standards on cleanliness, shelter, space, hoof care, water, food and exercise are necessary at all times but more important during winter. Therefore, a mix of the simple steps listed in this article will guarantee good health for horses during winter.

Water is life!

Horses, especially the adult ones weighing about 1,000 pounds, need lots of water to stay hydrated in winter. Moreover, water plays a major role in keeping the animals safe from colic. According to equine health experts, horses need about 12 gallons of water every day.

In the summer, horses can get between 50 to 80 percent of moisture (water) from their pastures and this makes up a bigger part of their water requirement. However, feedstuffs available in winter are not as lush as summer pastures. In contrast, horses graze dry feedstuffs such as hay and grain which contain between 10 to 15 percent of the animals’ water requirement, leaving them thirsty, dehydrated and prone to sickness and diseases such as impaction colic.

Horse owners should understand that horses often don’t have appetite for food when they are thirsty, and a dehydrated horse will always consume less food, making it less energetic, fragile, and vulnerable to illnesses. This is more noticeable during the coldest days of the season when proper healthcare is most required to keep horses in a good health condition. Moreover, adequate consumption of water is necessary to maintain a balanced faecal moisture and avoid intestinal or digestive problems which often arise when a horse’s faecal matter is too dry.

You should know that colic impaction or intestinal blockade doesn’t occur in 2 or more days of dehydration. Therefore, do the following to ensure your horse drinks more water during winter:

  • Maintain a good level of hygiene. The horse’s waterer should be well sanitized and constantly cleaned to avoid waterborne diseases.
  • Keep your horse’s water warm at all times during winter because, according to research findings, this helps the animals increase their water intake by 40% per day in freezing weather conditions. The water should be heated between 45 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Ensure that the drinking water is always fresh and clean.
  • Tank heaters should be thoroughly checked to avoid risks from damaged or naked wires—which present threats of electrical shocks, electrocution, or death.

Horse owners should have a plan for horse’s water and constantly check all water supply outlets or machines to ensure that drinking water stays warm. In addition, snow and ice should not be considered as good sources of water. Although snow and ice can provide drinkable water for horses, there are serious health risks associated with this source of water. For example, studies in equine health found that the animals need longer time to ingest water from snow. Moreover, the actual content of snow water is very poor compared to fresh water from safer sources like river or tap.


‘Bad” water also reduces the volume of water horses consume in winter therefore negligence of these responsibilities can limit the animals’ access to fresh, clean and warm water which, in turn, exposes them to health issues.