This question does not have a straightforward answer because the daily water requirement depends on many factors.
An average-sized horse (1,100lb / 500kg) with a limited activity level and living in a moderate climate, will drink approximately 5 to 10 gallons (20 to 40 liters) of water a day.
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However, the amount of water horses drink will vary considerably depending on several factors.
But ultimately, what matters is that the body’s water balance is maintained.
Although horses tend to drink less in the winter due to the cold water temperature not appealing to them, their water requirement remains the same.Winter Diet Usually Has Less Water Concentration
In fact, they may even need to drink more water during the winter months. They will typically be eating dry forages such as hay instead of green grass. So their primary source of water will mainly be through drinking because the feed has little water concentration.
When horses eat large amounts of dry forage and do not drink enough water, they will risk impaction colic.Manage Your horse’s Daily Water Intake
Therefore, you must manage your horses’ daily water intake so they get an adequate amount.
A common practice is to feed meals soaked in warm water, such as a bran mash and damp hay. This can be quite effective in increasing a horse’s water consumption, especially when the water temperature is too cold to drink enough voluntarily for their needs.Activity level during Winter
Typically horses will experience a reduction in exercise during the winter months. They will remain in the stables for shelter and thus be more passive and with reduced movement.
Without exercise, a horse’s body temperature will not rise, so he will not need to sweat to cool down the body. Therefore, he will not need additional water intake to compensate for any loss of water through sweat.
However, if horses continue to exercise during the winter, they will need extra water intake. But since they do not like the cold water, extra care should be taken to make sure they drink enough.
As mentioned already, a practical solution is to give the horse feed soaked in warm water.
Factors that influence water intake during hot weather:Sweating
Sweating is the primary means for a horse to cool his body temperature. The hotter the environment, the more he will sweat.
An idle horse in a cool environment ( around 70ºF / 20ºC) will drink 5 to 10 gallons (20 to 40 liters) of water a day. But under hot temperatures, that amount can increase to 16 gallons (60 liters) per day.
If the horse is also exercising, then he will sweat even more. Depending on the exercise’s intensity and duration, he may need to drink up to 30 gallons (115 liters) per day.High Environment Humidity Level Will Compromise Sweating
Sweating may become compromised as a cooling mechanism when environment humidity is over 75%. With high humidity levels, the sweat will not evaporate off the horse, and so the cooling effect will not be efficiently achieved.
Under these conditions, you need to help the horse cool down by rinsing him and avoiding intense exercise when the weather is hot and humid.Spring and Summer Diet
In the warmer months of spring and early summer, horses usually can graze the fresh pasture grasses, which contain a large amount of water. So in these conditions, the horse will drink less water because the pasture is a significant source of water intake.
Of course, if the horse does not eat green grass, his drinking requirements will be higher.Activity Level during Warmer Months
Contrary to the winter months, horses usually exercise more during the summer because they are left outside in the fields where they can move freely. So they will sweat more than when confined in a stall, and therefore, the water intake requirements will be higher.
5. Water quality
A horse may have less desire to drink or even not to drink at all if the water is contaminated with dirt, feces, and urine or is foul-smelling and unpalatable.
This will lead to dehydration and other health issues such as colic, even though they can have plenty of water available.
Horse carers should examine water sources checking its clarity, odor, and color. If you would not drink the water, then probably your horse would also not drink it.
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Outside water troughs should be cleaned periodically to remove dirt and algae. Barn water troughs should be cleaned every day.