Winter Water Access for Horses

Horses need access to fresh and unfrozen water during the winter months. Here’s what to remember.
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winter water access for horses
Some buckets and automatic watering systems have built-in heating elements to keep water unfrozen during winter. | Photo: Courtesy Ritchie

Horses need access to fresh and unfrozen water during the winter months in order to stay hydrated and healthy.

They sometimes drink less during cold or wet weather, but still need an adequate supply or they could develop impaction colic or other health problems. If his manure becomes firm and dry instead of soft and moist, the horse is not getting adequate water. He might not eat all of his grain or hay. And if he becomes dehydrated, his flanks and abdomen will draw up and he’ll generally become clearly uncomfortable.

Some buckets and automatic watering systems have effective built-in heating elements. If you choose one of these, It’s important to check these buckets and waterers regularly to ensure the heating element is functioning properly and keeping water thawed.

Water in a bucket can also be warmed with a submersible bucket heater; while these can be very effective they can also shock a horse if they don’t work properly or if a horse plays with the cord.

If a heated bucket is not an option, break the ice in your horses’ buckets regularly throughout the day to ensure he has frequent access to thawed water.

Many horses also tend to drink more if the water is not ice cold. You can also try to increase their consumption by supplying them with warm water (not burning hot) throughout the day or at feeding times. Horses should still have access to an unfrozen water source between the times at which you bring them warm water.

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Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog, www.heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com, she writes a biweekly blog at https://insidestorey.blogspot.com that comes out on Tuesdays.

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