How much water does a horse drink a day? You may have never asked yourself that question before. As animal care specialists, I would bet you have been asked that question by someone else. Maybe it’s a someone who has just brought her first horse home. Or maybe it’s a someone who is thinking of buying their first horse and wants to make sure their pasture is big enough for the amount of horses that will be on it. It’s also possible that this person may have had a horse for years and needs new fencing because the one they already had couldn’t handle the number of horses on it. It comes down to the same thing though: Horse owners want to know how much water does a horse drink per day?
How much water does my horse actually need?
An average 500kg (approximately 15hh) horse drinks around 30-50 litres a day. This amount may be higher in hot weather (because the horse will sweat more and use up water reserves in the body) and if working very hard (again the horse will sweat more). A mare with a foal needs more because the milk that she is making to feed the foal requires water. Horses that are grazing on rapidly growing grass will usually drink less because the grass that they are eating has a high water content compared to more mature grass and hay which is very dry.
How clean does this water need to be?
Clean uncontaminated water is a must for horses. If horses are forced to drink water that is contaminated with dirt, algae or manure/urine they can become sick. In addition to having a delicate digestive system horses are unable to vomit (a valve on the top of the stomach prevents vomiting). Once a horse has ingested food or water it has to pass right through the system – no matter how bad that food or water is (unlike a dog for example which can vomit and therefore quickly get rid of bad food or water).
You might be wondering why horses drink so much water. There are two main reasons for this: the nature of a horse’s digestive system and sweat. Horses typically consume a high-fiber diet, which requires plenty of water to break down, move through the digestive system, and distribute to the rest of the body. If a horse does not have enough water, the high fiber hay or grass can block the digestive system, leading to colic. Colic put’s your horse’s health at risk and requires immediate medical attention.
Another reason why horses drink so much water is that they sweat a lot. Like humans, horses sweat to keep cool and regulate their body temperature. Because of this, your horse needs to drink more water than it is releasing through sweating. Remember, horses work hard, whether at the farm or shows, and as such need water to recuperate, regain their stamina, and allow their heartbeat rate to reset to normal. Ensure that your pony has access to drinking water throughout the day when participating in endurance races.
Generally speaking, we see more digestive concerns during the winter months than during any other time of year. This is related to a decrease in water intake whether it is caused by a lack of supply, e.g. frozen water; cold water decreasing intake, or just not enough water being provided to the horse. Another factor can be the horse that was eating the lush pasture which may contain 75% water is now eating hay which contains 10% water. The horse still requires at least 10 gallons of water but is now relying on us to supply it. Older horses and those with dental issues may not drink very cold water, again adding to the problem of insufficient water intake.
A horse, like any animal, will be affected by the climate it comes from. Some in hot and dry places may drink up to 40 quarts of water a day. Others, in places where it is cold, may drink anywhere from 10-15 quarts per day. As for how much water a horse drinks per day or week, again this may depend on its coat type and if any horses have medical conditions that make them have to drink much more.