How Important is Water to my Horse?

Horses Need Water!

How does that old saying go?

"You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink???"

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That might be true, but it might help if we can understand how important water is to a horse, and how much they need.

From there, we just might understand why or why not our horse is drinking.

Think about this for a second….. The average horse needs 30-50 litres of water a day (average horse of 500kg).

They can live for a month or so without food, but can develop dangerous colic symptoms within 48 hours if they don’t drink water…..

That’s how important water is…..

In-fact, it is the most important part of a Horses diet. Out of the 6 nutrients which a horse needs (carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water) it is by far the most important.

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But why is it so important I hear you say???

Well Horses are one of the few animals who cool themselves down by sweating.

Guess which other animal does this? Yep you got it, Humans…….. and you know how thirsty you get when you have had a big sweat???

Well Horses are the same. Of course, when they sweat, they lose water, and electrolytes, and as such, they then need to replace this water……. Hence the need for water.

The other main reason they need so much water is because of their digestive system and their diet.

They have such a high fibre diet that they need a lot of water to help the fibre move through the system efficiently and effectively.

Further to this, the fibre also can absorb a lot of water, depending on the type of fibre it is, so the horse needs to compensate for this.

If your pony doesn’t get their water requirement for the day then they can easily start showing signs of colic and that can lead to a very unwell pony indeed.

So what factors should we be aware of with regards to water intake?

Consider feed type

  • Pasture grasses can be as high as 60%-80% moisture. So your horse can get a lot of water from it’s paddock….
  • Conversely, grains, hay and chaff can be extremely dry…….so more water is required if they are being fed a lot of dry mix.
    • Horse Treats and Horse Training Treats, including Stable Treats, are fine if they are fed in small amounts.
      • Like all feeds, ensure they have access to water especially If they are given in larger amounts.

Consider the Activity level

  • If your pony is in work for high energy sports or activities, then it will require more water than a pony being totally rested.

Age and size differences

  • Of course younger horses will require more water than older horses.
    • However, this is because of the activity level.
  • The size, or breed, of your pony will also affect water requirements


  • Clearly, the hotter it is the more they sweat….
    • The more they sweat, the more water they need…..It’s that simple!

Water Quality – Super Important

  • Horses have a very good sense of smell and taste and will refuse to drink contaminated and/or stagnant water.
    • Because they can’t use words, if they aren’t drinking, this could be them telling you that the water is bad…….
    • So take notice!
  • Horses can-not vomit.
    • If they consume “bad water” it must pass right through their entire system unlike us, we can vomit and expel contaminated water immediately.
  • A valve at the top of their stomach actually prevents regurgitation and vomiting
    • Horses can’t. And this can be very serious.

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Over-all health.

  • If your mare is pregnant or lactating, obviously their water requirements are going to more than normal.
  • If your horse has an illness, this may affect how much it drinks as well.
    • Conversely, this can be an indicator if it is ill or not!

Once you have considered a few of these points, best practice suggests that you do the following with regards to water availability!

1.  Provide more water than they need…..

  • So they can make the choice how much to drink.
  • Have a couple of different drinking points if possible.
    • An especially good idea if you stable your horse.
    • Prevents the only source being knocked over, or the total drinking water being contaminated.

2.  Provide a reliable and steady supply of water.

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3.  Spend the time to notice how much, or how little, they are drinking.

  • Simply observing their intake can save their lives and save you money by getting onto a problem before it gets serious!

I think the message here is, don’t under estimate the importance of water in the diet of your horse.

It is vital to them……just as it is vital to us!!!

Hope this gives you something to think about and helps in some way.

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PS: Please feel free to post a review on one of these review sites…….we appreciate the thought and it all helps. Thanks.

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