Hydration is critical to a horse’s health. If they don’t drink enough water one of the results can be colic — water is extremely important to their digestive system. In the winter horses keeping horses hydrated can be a problem because they just don’t drink as much when it’s cold.
- Try adding salt to their food. While it’s good to have salt blocks available, if your horse doesn’t lick them, they don’t work. I add a tablespoon of salt to my horse’s grain every meal to encourage him to drink more.
- Cover your salt lick with molasses. Some people do this to encourage their horses to use their salt lick. However, some horses treat these like candy so you need to limit access to them.
- Serve the water at a warmer temperature. Some horses just don’t like really cold water. Heated water buckets are great if your horses are stalled. Since our horses are out 24/7 we just put tank heaters in the outside troughs. Some horses like water that’s noticeably warm to the touch.
- Add water to everything they eat. I like to feed soupy beet pulp in the winter which I top dress with grain. It encourages additional water consumption and simultaneously reduces the chance of choke. Soaked hay cubes also work really well but the advantage to beet pulp is that (at least with the shreds) they absorb water quickly, especially if you add warm water. You can also wet hay or simply pour water over the horse’s grain. Be careful about adding water to feed that will be exposed to freezing temps, such as hay, because it can freeze and leave ice behind.
- Make a flavored “tea” out of grain or hay cubes. Add just enough of each to flavor the water. You can also add peppermints, Kool Aid, apple juice, Gatorade, apple cider vinegar or molasses. There’s even a product made for horses called HorseQuencher.
- Clean your buckets or buy new ones. Be careful about using bleach because it can leave a residual taste. I prefer to clean my water buckets either with Listerine or baking soda. It keeps me from bleaching my clothes inadvertently, too.
- Float apples or apple slices in their bucket. Lots of horses like to bob for apples and they drink while they do it.
- Move the bucket to another location. Sounds silly, but some horses don’t like to drink when they are in certain places.
- Dip your horse’s bit in the water with his saliva still on it.