Quenching the Thirst: Understanding a Horse’s Water Needs

Horses are majestic creatures known for their health and vitality. While numerous elements give these creatures this status, water takes the crown.

Similar to humans, horses require water to survive and thrive. Also, it plays a vital factor in their overall well-being.

This article will discuss why your horse needs water, the amount they require, and some tips to make sure you meet your horse’s water needs.

brown horses drinking water

Importance of Water for Horses

From aiding digestion to regulating body temperature (thermoregulation), there are various uses of water in a horse’s body.

Regardless of your horse’s duties (racetrack or trail), they need water for their well-being and performance. Therefore, water is an essential part of horse care.

Some parts of a horse that require water include blood, eyes, nostrils, blood, digestive system, excretory systems, and lymphatic system.

Lack of water leads to dehydration, which in turn, causes issues such as lower energy levels, colic, kidney issues, and others. Thus, as a horse owner, you need to make sure your horse constantly has access to water.

How Much Water Does Your Horse Need?

Unlike humans, the required quantity of water for horses varies based on age, feed, activity level, size, and environmental conditions.

However, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, an idle horse weighing 1100 lbs (499 kg) requires about 6 to 8 gallons of water daily. Keep in mind that this quantity would increase in hotter weather or after strenuous exercise.

Ultimately, a horse’s water intake should mirror its daily activity. If you have an extremely active racehorse, they would most likely lose a lot of fluids through sweat. This means your horse would need a higher quantity of water. On the other hand, if you have a pasture-kept horse, their hydration needs would not be as high.

That being said, it is up to you to monitor your horse’s water consumption and make adjustments that suit their needs.

Signs of Dehydration

As mentioned, dehydration can lead to a range of health concerns, so it is best to avoid that.

That said, your horse may end up dehydrated due to limited water or lack of desire to drink water, and you would not notice. So, here are some signs that your horse may be dehydrated.

Increased Heart Rate

One way to check your horse’s hydration level is to count their pulse. There are numerous arteries you can use, but the best would be a facial artery. You can find this artery on the bottom side of your horse’s jaw.

A typical resting rate for a horse is about 32 to 36 beats per minute. So, if you notice that your horse’s resting heart rate exceeds 60, it may be dehydrated.

Tighter Skin

If your horse loses too much fluid, their skin may lose its elasticity. So, to check for dehydration, you can pinch your horse’s back or lower chest. Tight skin (skin that takes longer to return to its original state) may indicate that your equine friend is dehydrated.

Fast Respiratory Rate

A horse usually takes between 8 to 12 breaths in a minute. Thus, if your horse takes faster, shallow breaths, it is a sign that its body is trying to conserve water, meaning you must rehydrate your equine companion.

How to Providing Optimal Hydration

Provide Easy Access to Water

The first measure you can take to be sure your horse is adequately hydrated is to give them easy access to clean and fresh water. You can do this by strategically placing horse water troughs in areas that are easily accessible to them.

When investing in water troughs, ensure to opt for troughs that are sturdy and easy to maintain. Furthermore, invest in adequately-sized troughs based on the number of horses you have and the size of their living quarter.

You can also consider automatic waterers because they offer a constant source of fresh water, leading to less contamination.

Maintain Your Water Troughs

Horse drinking from a water trough

When it comes to water in a trough, cleanliness is crucial. This is because stagnant water in a dirty trough can lead to the development of algae and bacteria. Besides the awful smell and taste of this water, it could also cause health issues in your horse.

Hence, you need to maintain the water troughs regularly. Ensure to scrub, disinfect, and refill your troughs a few days a week. Doing this ensures that your water remains clean at all times.

Granted, cleaning the trough often may seem like tedious work, but it is worth it to make sure your horse drinks clean and safe water. Furthermore, you could always hire someone to take care of the task for you.

Tips to Make Your Horse Drink Water

In most cases, your horse would readily drink water, but this could change because of factors such as a change of environment, stress, change in weather, unfamiliar taste or smell of water, unclean water, or acidic water.

Fortunately, there are measures you can take to make sure your horse stays hydrated, regardless of the situation.

Change the Flavor of the Water

If you notice that your horse does not drink water at a show or on a trail, consider adding a nice flavor to the water.

You can even take it a step further by carrying water in a large container. However, keep in mind that some plastic containers change the taste of water.

Keep Your Horse Cool

Your horse may refuse to drink water because they are hot. In that case, you should find ways of cooling them down. One method you can implement is using a cold water hose.

After using the hose, be sure to use a sweat scraper to get rid of any excess water. Without doing so, the water you hose on your horse will simply trap heat.

Consider Using Electrolytes

If your horse is dehydrated after intense activities, you can give them electrolyte-rich water. This water will help them replenish the minerals they lost from sweat, thereby causing them to drink more.

However, be sure to only give your horse electrolyte after intense exercises, or else they will simply urinate the electrolytes.


Delving into equestrian culture means understanding the needs of your equine companions, from food to water. Just as you cater to their needs like nutrition, coats, and teeth, you also need to factor in their hydration.

Hydration can be the difference between a healthy and unhealthy equine creature. Therefore, you need to take measures to ensure you quench your horse’s thirst. Using this article, you have everything you need to understand your horse’s hydration needs.

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