Equine water needs vary. On average, a mature horse at rest will need between 10 and 12 gallons of water per day depending on environmental and/or physiological conditions.
Factors that increase your horse’s water needs include:
Pregnancy: 10% more
Lactation: 50-70% more
Hard work or profuse sweating: double their daily needs
Hot weather: up to double their daily needs
Other factors that will increase equine water needs include fever, injuries involving blood loss and diet (green grass requiring less water than hay).
Among its many roles, water helps control temperature, assists digestion and regulates the nervous system. Dehydration is a general condition that affects these body functions.
Inadequate water supply and/or excessive water loss cause horse dehydration. Some common situations include:
Tainted water: Keep stock tanks clean at all times.
Frozen water: Maintain water temperature between 45° to 65ºF (7° to 18ºC), because horses will be reluctant to drink water that is too hot or too cold.
Mechanical problems: jaw or dental problems, throat obstructions/choking or tetanus.
Diarrhea: Consider adding electrolytes to your horse’s feed or water.
Profuse sweating: Before and during prolonged exercise, encourage your horse to drink as much water as possible. After exercise, let her cool down before drinking or having free access to water.
If you think your horse is dehydrated, pinch the skin in the middle of the horse’s neck and pull it gently from the underlying tissue. Upon release, it should almost immediately snap back into its original position. Skin that takes 2 to 5 seconds to get back in place indicates mild dehydration. Skin that retains its puckered state for 10 to 15 seconds indicates severe dehydration.
The capillary refill test can be performed by pressing on your horse’s gum. In a dehydrated horse, refill time will be longer than two seconds. For more information on the capillary refill test, please read our Colic Preparedness Report. The test is explained in the Vital Signs section of the report.
Outward symptoms of dehydration that can be seen without actually touching the horse are sunken eyes and a tucked up appearance in the flank.
Equine water needs will vary according to activity, condition and season, so keep an eye on her water consumption. If you think she’s not drinking enough, try these simple steps to increase your horse’s water consumption to ensure her best health.