A horse requires 5 -10 gallons of water a day for body systems to function correctly. This quantity is the same for summer and winter. Where a horse gets water, however, may differ.
Fresh grass consists of up to 85% water. Horses grazing for long hours on green pastures may very likely drink less than the 5 – 10 gallons a day from a direct water source. They are meeting their daily water requirements through grass consumption. Conversely, hay should contain less than 15% water. During winter months, when cured hays are the primary source of a forge, direct water intake must increase.
A reduction in water intake can contribute to impaction colic. Lack of fresh grass, combined with the fact many horses don’t like to consume icy water, puts them at risk for cold weather colic. It’s essential to monitor water consumption to avoid health problems.
You can encourage a horse to drink by utilizing a heated bucket, adding electrolytes or salt to feed, or giving them a salt or mineral block throughout the colder months. If a horse still isn’t drinking 5 – 10 gallons of water a day, contact your primary care veterinary to evaluate.