Horses Winter Water Needs: Ask the Expert

Horses Winter Water NeedsQuestion: I’ve heard that horses need more water in the winter, is that true?

Answer:  During the summer months, pasture contains about 80% moisture and can contribute to your horse’s water requirement if grazing.

In contrast, hay should contain less than 15% moisture, increasing your horse’s need for water during the winter months or when fed a primarily hay diet.

If your horse doesn’t drink enough water during cold weather they may eat less and be more prone to impaction colic and more susceptible to cold weather.

Most 1,000-pound adult, idle horses need at least 10 to 12 gallons of water daily and water is most readily consumed when kept between 45 and 65°F.

Written by Krishona Martinson, PhD, and Marcia Hathaway, PhD, University of Minnesota. This and other horse nutrition articles can be found at

44 Replies to “Horses Winter Water Needs: Ask the Expert”

  1. My TB is out 24/7 although if she wanted should has the use of 12×12 stalls. She has never been a big water drinker even in Summer. I have gotten in the habit of feeding her Nutrena mixed with a few handfuls of alfalfa/timothy cubes. The mix gets completely saturated in hot water, making it a mash of Nutrena and completely reconstituted hay. This has helped keep her free from impaction colic for many years, while helping to keep her hydrated.

  2. I add Progressive Nutrition’s Aqua Aide electrolytes to all of my horses daily diet especially in the winter to encourage them to drink more.

  3. My water tank has a heat probe that prevents freezing. One of my mares will drink from the tank but prefers my creek water. In the summer it is opposite. Go figure!

  4. My very suggested a tablespoon of salt on their feed daily for each horse to make them drink more water during winter. It works. Everyone has their own technique. No one is right and no one is wrong. Everyone is different. I use pink Himalayan salt.

  5. Electrolytes and salt are very important to encourage drinking but also sometimes I add apple juice to help.

  6. My horses have access to warm water 24/7. I also have mineral salt that I add to feed daily in the winter. If I notice that water consumption is down I’ll add frozen 100% apple juice to it. They love it!

  7. Water is an insulator & if I were eating all dry hay It makes common sense to intake more water. It only takes one horse to catch EPM and you always want them to drink fresh water from a tank or bucket. I add electrolytes to my stall buckets as well. Mine are usually stalled at night in wintertime mostly. Very good article

  8. We have water heaters in the troughs and add warm water to their feed to make sure they get enough water.

  9. Helpful information. My horses are out 24/7, but have a barn with their stalls open so they can come and go as they want. Always with water available.

  10. Thank you very much. I keep free choice of himalayan salt available to encourage water intake. I also Have two buckets available for water. Almost every horse uses one to dunk their hay in and the other to drink out of.

  11. We use stock tank heaters and if it’s really cold I feed soaked hay cubes at night.
    Also if I see that they don’t seem to be drinking I will add table salt to their feed or use an electrolyte powder to top dress.

  12. Sometimes here in Arizona we do get in the 30’s at night and early mornings. I make sure my Gambler has enough water to drink plus I give him apple juice diluted with water in a separate bucket to encourage him to drink more water…

  13. My quarter horse loves to dunk his hay in the water too, which is great. I know that he is taking in some water while he eats. Making sure that water is always available ( vs. ice) is a daily challenge this winter.

  14. My horses have access to salt blocks and heated water in the winter. I am able to monitor their intake

  15. My 2 have barn/stall available 24/7 and daily turnout. They have a 100+ gal stock tank with an airpump bubbling water to keep it circulating with a thermostatically controlled heater.

  16. Great info. My horses have access to a water tub with a heater in it for the winter. Most of them prefer drinking from the warm tub. They also receive water inside stalls when they are inside. I have a few that dont like drinking inside when its cold.

  17. I believe my horses do. I feed beet pellets and alfalfa pellets and I let them soak in water most of the day before feeding just to be sure the gut has water in the diet.

  18. Both my horses love it when I bring warm water on the colder mornings. They will split a 5 gallon bucket instantly between the two.

  19. Clean water is important at any time of year! But agree with its importance about winter and water. Thanks for the info.

  20. Thank you for this information. In addition I keep mineral and salt blocks available for my herd during the winter months.

  21. Great article!! My gelding drinks ALOT I have to refill his pasture water at least once every two days. My mare doesnt drink as much but she likes to play in it

  22. My horses also drink more water in winter. I encourage this by providing heated water buckets in their stalls and a tank outside with a heating element. They have loose harvest salt free choice available at all times.

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