Water is the most important nutrient we provide for horses on a year-round basis. In fact, horses need 2 to 3 times more water than other feedstuffs. At an average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit, a typical 1,100 lb horse on a dry forage diet will need a minimum of 6-7 gallons of water per day. That's 48-56 lbs of water--and many horses will drink more water than the minimum!
We instinctually appreciate how water requirements can double at higher temperatures, but many don't realize that at -4 degrees Fahrenheit, the quantity required is about 10-12 gallons per day, which is actually higher than the amount required at moderate temperatures. This is because the onset of cold weather means drier air and less fresh grass available in the forage.
Fortunately, here in central Texas, the grass stays greener for longer, and the temperatures rarely drop below freezing for very long (last year's "Big Freeze" notwithstanding, of course). Nevertheless, it's important to remember that horses can survive longer without food than they can without water. (In fact, reduced food intake is one reason why horses in the wild are able to adapt to lower water availability.) Among other things, reduced water intake impairs digestion and can potentially contribute to the incidence of impaction colic.
So providing horses with fresh, clean water at an appropriate temperature year-round is a great management tool to reduce the risk of colic, promote healthy digestion, maintain body condition, and even save a bit of money on the cost of feed! And with colder weather on the way, we want to be thinking more than usual about whether our horses are getting plenty of water when the grass begins to go dormant.
If you need advice on how to make sure your horse is getting the right hydration and nutrition as the weather starts to cool, we're here to help! We have top-rated watering troughs, premium horse feeds and supplements, turnout blankets, and many other quality products to keep your animal thriving this season. Call or stop by today, and let our experts take care of you!