The horse world is cluttered with feeds, supplements, and remedies all promising a better, “new and improved” horse. While many such products do in fact improve horses’ health and condition, there are certain basics that every horse needs, regardless of breed, age, condition, or purpose. Even seasonal or regional changes do not alter these foundational principles.
Water is the most important nutrient
It must be plentiful, clean, and of the right temperature to encourage horses to drink. Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D., tells us, “A horse at maintenance, living in a temperate climate will require a minimum of ½ to 1 gallon per hundred pounds of body weight. For the 1100 lb (500 kg) horse, that equates to 5.5 to 11 gallons (21 to 42 liters) per day. However, his demand for water will increase with activity and warmer temperatures.”
Here are some factors to consider:
· Water must be freshened daily. Dead insects, bird droppings and excessive pond scum can poison your horse. Using smaller water troughs can make cleaning easier.
· Never add salt or electrolytes to your horse’s only water supply. Plain water must always be available.
· Pasture is high in moisture, typically containing 60 to 80 percent water, whereas most hays have only 7 to 10% moisture.
· High protein diets increase water requirements since protein can have a diuretic effect.
· During cold weather, horses drink less, especially if the water is ice cold. This potentially leads to dehydration – the main cause of colic in the winter. Heating water between 45 and 60 degrees F (7 to 15 degrees C) will promote more water consumption. Be sure the heater has no exposed wires that could electrify the water source.
· If you rely on creeks or ponds, the water must be moving and deep enough to not freeze.
· Snow consumption will not meet your horse’s water requirement. One gallon of average snow contains only 10 ounces of water. Also, eating snow will force your horse to burn precious calories needed to keep his body temperature steady.