By Kristen M. Janicki
Water is one of the essential nutrients a horse needs to perform a number of life-support functions, including digestion and thermoregulation. As horse owners, we know it's important to provide free-choice water to horses at all times, but it is also imperative that the water is of good quality, clean, and palatable.
A number of circumstances can lead a water deficiency in horses, including unpalatable taste, lack of water offered, or loss of thirst due to exertion. The effects of insufficient water intake include decreased performance, decreased feed intake, dehydration, and eventually, if not remedied, death.
On average, a typical 1,100-pound horse at maintenance consumes four to nine gallons of water per day. The amount of water a horse requires can vary depending upon several factors:
The type, amount, and quality of feed consumed
- Fresh pasture contains between 60-80% moisture and provide a large amount of the horse's water requirements when grazing.
- Hay and grain are very low in moisture, causing horses to drink more water to meet their needs.
- Higher levels of protein and sodium in the diet also increase the horse's water requirement as urinary volume increases.
Temperature and humidity
Ambient temperatures above 85°F will increase a horse's drinking frequency and volume.
Colder temperatures (below 45°F) can reduce a horse's water consumption
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- Horses with excessive water losses from diarrhea require more water per day.