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Why Won’t My Horse Drink Water Away From Home?

April 12, 2021

Water is essential to life, and a horse that’s not drinking can become dangerously dehydrated in just a few days. Your horse’s health is important, and hydration is key—but horses are sometimes fussy about water. Certain situations can cause horses to stop drinking, quickly putting them at risk for dehydration and colic. This is especially true when they're on the road.

You want to keep your horse healthy when traveling and ensure she's drinking the minimum eight gallons of water a day. So how do you do that? We have some suggestions.

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What Makes A Horse Stop Drinking?

Horses don’t like change. A new smell or taste, even switching from a familiar metal water container at home to a plastic bucket on the road can be off-putting to a picky drinker. Here are a few reasons horses may stop drinking water when away from home.

  • Smell. A horse’s smell is more acute than humans. They smell things we don’t and are much more sensitive to those smells. With a sniff, horses can detect aversive chemicals or odors emanating from water or containers.
  • Flavor: Think water doesn’t have a flavor? Think again. A horse accustomed to well water at home may refuse treated water on the road because of the taste of chemicals, chlorine, or fluoride.
  • Temperature: Some like it hot, and some not. Horses like their water tepid--not too hot or cold. This article in The Horse noted research indicates horses prefer lukewarm (68°F) water, especially during cold weather.
  • Acidity. Water acidity affects palatability. According to Kentucky Equine Research, a University of Guelph study found horses are more likely to drink water with a pH of 7.5 (slightly alkaline) than water with acidic levels.
  • Dirty. Unclean or stagnant water can be a floating Petri dish of bacteria and algae. Horses sense when a potential intestinal problem is lurking in murky water and will avoid it.
  • Stress. The rigors of hauling, leaving paddock pals, dealing with a disrupted schedule, and a new environment can all create anxiety that affects a horse’s desire to drink.

Horse drinking water-2

7 Suggestions to Keep Horses From Becoming Dehydrated on the Road

You don’t have to be at the mercy of your horse’s picky water palate. There are ways to help your horse stay hydrated and save both of you some stress. Try these ideas to increase water consumption when hauling.

  1. Offer water after a rest. Experienced haulers say your horse is more likely to drink after the trailer has been standing still for 15 to 20 minutes and your horse has had a chance to rest. Offer water every two to three hours when hauling.
  2. Bring “home water.” If you can, bring two five-gallon containers of water from home. This helps your horse transition gradually to “away water” and lessens the likelihood she’ll be put off by unfamiliar smells or tastes.
  3. Add moisture to feed. Consider soaking your horse’s hay to aid in hydration, and offer a wet bran mash or beet pulp once or twice a day.
  4. Peak your horse’s interest. Toss a few apple pieces or carrots into your horse’s water bucket to tempt her nose into the bucket to take a sip.
  5. Try giving salt. Rub loose salt over your horse’s tongue. Some suggest this encourages horses to drink soon after. Of course, you should also always offer your horse a salt lick or loose mineral salt to replace electrolytes and trigger drinking.
  6. Add flavor to water. Horses prefer tastes that are sweet or salty. Consider adding a natural equine electrolyte drink mix like Redmond Rein Water or a sweetener like apple juice to your horse’s home water several days prior to a trip. Once you’ve arrived at your new destination, use the same electrolyte or flavor to mask the taste of unfamiliar water and give your horse a taste of home.
  7. Keep tubs clean. Horses want fresh, clean water. Clear your horse’s water container of debris and change water frequently. If you’re using a bucket, rinse and wipe it out daily. Troughs and large containers should be cleaned weekly with a bristle brush to clear algae and contaminants.

Why Wont My Horse Drink Away Water

Get Your Horse Drinking with Rein Water

We realize a horse that’s not drinking is an immense concern. That’s why we created Redmond Rein Water. It’s an all-natural equine electrolyte drink mix that stirs easily into a water bucket and appeals to horses' taste for salt.

Rein Water is simple and natural. It includes Redmond salt, Redmond clay, and essential trace minerals and electrolytes horses need to stay hydrated. It also alkalizes and masks the taste of unfamiliar water, and horses love the flavor!

Decrease your worries over dehydration and keep your horse drinking at home and on the road. Click the button below to purchase Rein Water today.

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Learn More

Is your horse drinking enough? Read this post to check for 5 signs of dehydration.

Want more tips to keep finicky horses hydrated? Read this post by popular clinician Julie Goodnight.

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