How can I encourage my horse to drink?
It seems that in the summer, your horse needs to drink to replenish fluids lost during sweating. In winter, water is a must to prevent dehydration, colic, and a slew of other things that can happen because of decreased water intake.
How can you lead a horse to water, and make him drink??
Tough situation - but I have some tricks and tips for you that can help you out in a pinch. First you need to find out what your horse likes. If you suspect dehydration, this is not the time to begin your grand experiments. Have a plan in place before you need to use it.
A note about containers: make sure your horse is comfortable drinking from buckets, auto waterers, and troughs. If your horse has a trough at home, and you are away at a show and use buckets, you will need to know that he will drink from them.
Now for the tips!
-Remember that electrolytes given as a supplement will not increase your horse’s desire to drink, as horses are stimulated to drink when the salt concentrations in their blood are increased. BUT - horses lose so much salt and electrolytes when sweating that the concentrations actually decrease and their brains don't register thirst. He must also have the proper amount of salt in his diet already (about two tablespoons) However, powder electrolytes added to a bucket of water may make him more interested in drinking the water because of the flavor.
-Experiment with adding apple juice, powder electrolytes, apple cider vinegar, unsweetened drink powders, salt, or peppermint oil to your horse’s water to see what he likes.
-Keep his food near his water.
-Soak his hay, add water to his grain and supplements. A flake of hay that is soaked in water can hold 1-2 gallons! Adding water to his fortified feeds also helps with chewing, staying hydrated, and preventing choke.
-Warm his water up in cold weather. Recent research has found that horses will choose to drink cold water over warm water, but they will drink MORE of the warm water if that is the only choice.
-Pay attention to the signs of dehydration: skin tent/pinch test, check the gums, and watch for depression and an increased heart rate. Dehydration can be dangerous, and a quick two minute check of your horse can alert you to dehydration before it gets out of hand.
Do you have a favorite water additive for your horse?