Giving Horses Warm Water

I’ve heard it’s necessary to give horses warm water in the winter. Is this true? And if so, how warm should it be?
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Giving Horses Warm Water
In the winter, when the water can be very cold, some horses drink less. This is a problem because water is one of the most important items a horse needs to be healthy. | Photo: The Horse Staff
Q: I’ve heard it’s necessary to give horses warm drinking water in the winter. Is this true? And if so, how warm should it be? Do you have any suggestions on how I can keep my horse’s drinking water warm when it’s freezing outside?

A: In the winter, when the water can be very cold, some horses drink less. This is a problem because water is one of the most important items a horse needs to be healthy. Horses need quite a bit of water to wash all the food they ingest through the intestinal tract. If horses don’t drink enough, they can be subject to a really bad colic or intestinal impaction.

However, every horse is an individual. Young horses, before they have their full set of teeth, are very tender in the mouth. So are many older horses and horses with any kind of dental problem, such as a sore tooth. A horse with sensitive teeth, mouth, or gums might refuse to drink cold water because it’s painful. But for many normal, adult horses, cold water tends to be less of a problem. While some older horses are very reluctant to drink cold water at the beginning of every winter, as they get a little farther into the winter, they adjust to colder water.

Related Content: Understanding Horse Water Requirements
Related Content: Understanding Horse Water Requirements

What’s important is that owners watch their horses, no matter how young or old the animals are, to make sure all are drinking enough. The usual way is to check for dehydration. Watch the manure for a covering of mucus; this covering indicates an inadequate water intake. Also, pinch the skin on the shoulder into a little tent between your fingers. The tent should bounce back immediately. A tent that lasts a couple of seconds lasts too long, indicating dehydration. People should do this with their horses during normal times so they have a baseline to know that horse’s normal reaction

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Written by:

AAEP member Anton (Tony) Anderson, DVM, is a veterinarian with an equine and small animal practice in Evergreen, Colo.

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