Written by: Susan Stafford-Pooley
Some horses are reluctant to drink water while they’re away from their home barn. This can cause a multitude of problems – not the least of which include dehydration, heat stroke, colic, etc. Here are a few suggestions for making water more palatable on the road:
• If you suspect it’s the different taste that’s putting him off, try adding a trace of flavouring such as apple juice, fruit drink or electrolyte powders, Gatorade, etc., to his water at home. Do the same with water while you’re away to make the scent and taste more familiar.
• Researchers at the University of Guelph – Kemptville found that horses prefer water with neutral pH levels (7 or above) rather than acidic low pH levels (below 7) which give it a sour taste. Litmus paper can determine the pH level; note too that soft water is more acidic than hard water.
• Always use a familiar bucket, preferably the one he uses every day.
• If you have the storage facilities, bring “home” water with you, remembering that a horse can drink over 40 litres per day. This may only be practical for short trips.
• Offer water often while travelling, and if your horse is too stressed to drink on the trailer, give him a break by unloading him and allowing him to graze before offering water again.
• Plan frequent stops and offer water (and food) every 2-4 hours, and more often if the weather is humid.
• If the water is very cold, allow it to warm a bit before offering, as some horses dislike extremely cold water.
• Try tempting him with apple slices placed in the water.
• If your horse absolutely refuses to drink, get him accustomed to eating soaked hay several weeks prior