With the recent cold snap, we’ve had several questions pertaining to impaction colic and hydration, due from lack of water consumption. Making sure your horse is properly hydrated is not just a summer issue. During the cold, winter months, water consumption is key to keeping your horse’s overall health.
When horses eat more hay, they should drink more water. Water consumption should be a minimum of 10 to 12 gallons per day for a 1000 lb. horse to support normal function of the digestive system and maintain adequate hydration. During weather changes and especially during extreme cold weather, horses often drink less water. When they eat more hay but drink less water they become at greater risk for impaction colic and reduced intake due to dehydration. To help encourage water intake, keep water sources clean, fresh and free from ice. A minimum water temperature of 45°F is a good goal for horses during harsh, cold weather.
Many owners have traditionally offered warm bran mashes to their horses during winter. Research would suggest that the benefit of these mashes is more related to increased water consumption and possibly a slight digestive upset from receiving a meal of bran that isn’t consistent with their normal daily diet. Another way to encourage water consumption is to add warm water to the horse’s normal feed ration along with a couple ounces of loose salt. Purina® Hydration Hay® Blocks also make a great warm mash for horses. These two-pound compressed hay blocks will absorb and hold more water than other mash ingredients such as beet pulp or alfalfa cubes. They are made of hay, making them more consistent with a horse’s normal diet than wheat bran mashes.
Source: Karen Davison, Purina Mills