If you ride competitions, go on a multi-day hike, do endurance or want to go on long outdoor rides, it’s nice if you can keep your horse hydrated. A horse that drinks too little not only loses moisture, but also a lot of energy. In addition, the risk of colic is higher if a horse drinks too little. That’s why we give you seven tips to get your horse to drink when you’re on the road.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink” is a well-known English proverb. Figuratively it means that you can’t force anyone to do something they don’t feel like doing, but as a horse owner you can also take this proverb quite literally. However, there are a number of things you can do to make your horse drink (better) when you are away from home.
When should a horse drink?
Just like humans, some horses drink more than others. Horses can also go without water for a few hours. But if it is hot, or if your horse has to make a hefty effort, he loses a lot of moisture. This can vary from about 7 to 12 liters of water per hour. A light exercise in hot and muggy weather can cause just as much fluid loss as a heavy exercise in cooler and drier weather. So it really is a sum of labor and weather conditions. A horse also sweats more when stressed, for example on the trailer. Horse sweat contains many minerals, which you also need to supplement. So not only water is important, you also have to keep an eye on salt and other electrolytes.
An easy way to tell if your horse is dehydrated is to hold a piece of skin from the neck between two fingers and lift something up. If you let go of the sheet after a few seconds, it should immediately spring back to its original shape. If you can see a fold for a moment, or if the skin remains standing for a while, then the ‘turgor’ (elasticity) of the skin is too low. It means your horse needs to drink. Test regularly at home what is normal for your horse.
Tips for getting a drink
Because we prefer to prevent your horse from drying out, here are seven tips for when you are on the road or for a longer period of time on strange terrain.
Tip 1 – no stress!
A horse that is stressed does not drink or drinks too little. Your horse should therefore feel safe to drink. You can reduce the stress during transport or at a competition with the help of a liquid herbal supplement against stress. Stress is also reduced when the water smells familiar and when your horse can drink from a familiar bucket. It may also help if your horse is used to being tethered to the trailer while drinking. Which brings us to the next tip.
Tip 2 – Practice
Practice at home with drinking from the bucket that you also use on a competition or field trip. Also, practice drinking while your horse is at the trailer, just as it would at a competition or outing. See where your horse is most comfortable, but don’t keep trying endlessly. The horse should not get used to having a hundred chances to drink. He must learn to seize the opportunity when it comes. For example, ride a workout and then offer your horse water. If he doesn’t want to drink, put him somewhere without water for an hour. Then try again. Often a horse will.
Tip 3 – A nice taste
Is your horse not drinking? Add a nice taste to the water. For example, a little apple juice, or even better: a liquid supplement with electrolytes. Practice with this too and try out what your horse likes. When you add that same delicious taste to ‘strange’ water at a competition, there is a greater chance that your horse will not turn up his nose.
Tip 4 – Seeing drinking makes drinking
Especially with endurance and outdoor riding, it can be useful if your horse wants to drink rainwater from puddles or water from a stream or ditch. The best way to learn this is with an experienced horse. When horses see another horse drinking from a puddle, they often do it themselves. Of course you can also imitate this at home in the paddock.
Tip 5 – Take water with you
If you are only on the road for a day and your horse does not always want to drink strange water, you can also choose to bring your own water from the stable. At least it won’t taste weird. And on some competition grounds you have to carry a long way with water, so it’s that easy for yourself too!
Tip 6 – Soaked hay
Your horse still doesn’t want to drink well in strange terrain? Then soak the hay, give soaked grass chunks or a little grain-free slop. Watery fruit such as melon can also be a temporary solution to get some moisture in. As long as a horse drinks badly, concentrates are not a good idea, even if it often makes them thirsty. Rather give some roughage to see if it stimulates the thirst.
Tip 7 – Light excercise
If nothing really works and your horse hasn’t had anything to drink for too long, try lunging or walking lightly and then offer another bucket of water.