how much water do horses need daily

How Much Water do Horses Need Daily?

It’s essential to know how much water your horse can consume. So how much water do horses need daily? A horse should consume between five to ten gallons daily. However, some horses are picky and can take different amounts. 

Every animal and humans need water for good functioning and healthy living. In horses, it’s not all about hydrating; it prevents dangerous ailments from improper digestion like colic.

Seen how essential water is, here is how to ensure there is continuous provision of water for your horse:

  • Each paddock and stall should have a permanent water source installed
  • Ensure the water sources have enough and clean water daily
  • Clean and refill the sources often, especially in the summer
  • Ensure the water is warm, especially in winter
  • Add more water for exercising and transporting horses

Can a Horse Drink Too Much Water?

Yes, horses overdrink, but not for the healthy ones. Adult horses can consume five to ten gallons, three to four on pasture, and fifteen for nursing horses or during summer. If your horse drinks more than average, it may suffer from Polydipsia.

How can you know if your horse is overdrinking? Put water in a measuring tank, and mark the volume. Use it to determine how much your horse has consumed for a day.

Some factors make horses overdrink water. They include:

  • Type of feed
  • Misbehavior or psychological problem
  • Cushing problem or inflammations in the liver or kidneys.
  • Distance of travel or hardness of training

Water Consumption in Horses According to Seasonal Weather

The amount of water your horse consumes depends on the daily activities and the weather. While in spring and summer, the horse can engage in various activities like ranch work, trail and pleasure riding, and showing farm. However, the horse should have adequate water sources during this time. Horses consume more water in hot seasons than in cold seasons.

Do Horses Only Drink Clean Water?

Horses will only drink uncontaminated water. Otherwise, if the horse consumes water full of manure, urine, algae, and dirt, it will get sick. Unfortunately, the horse cannot vomit the water.

Do Horses Get Water From Grass?

Grass contains water. If your horse is a grass fan, you have to reduce the amount of daily water intake. It isn’t surprising if a day goes without the horse drinking the provided water.

Grass moisture during winter is usually high – about 80%. During summer, it reduces to 60% due to high humidity. At this time, you need to provide more water than in winter, no matter how much grass the horse consumes. 

How Long Can a Horse Go Without Water?

A horse can only survive without water for three to six days. If extended, the dehydration may become fatal. On the second day, most organs will show some dehydration signs. After three days, most of the organs will shut down. 

Why Do Horses Refuse to Drink Water?

Horses are sensitive to smell and taste. No matter how clean the water is, it will still decline if it’s a new source, stagnant or polluted. Here are some of the reasons why a horse may refuse to drink water:

Unclean Water

Dirty water has a bad smell which puts off horses. Ensure that the water sources are always clean, especially the automatic ones.

If the water has Excess Fluoride

If the water is highly concentrated with fluoride, the horse may refuse the water due to bad taste.


Nervous horses rarely drink the average water, which applies to new environments like shows and competitions. In that case, make your horse relax so that it can consume enough water. 

New Water Sources

A horse may refuse to drink from an unfamiliar bucket or tank. Horses have high smell sensitivity and notice that the smell is different, thus declining the water. If you are traveling or attending a show with your horse, carry familiar water sources (especially those it uses every day) to ensure it drinks adequate water for that day. 

If you want to change the source, introduce some flavors, such as molasses, until it familiarizes. Add the flavor to the new water source. You can stop flavoring the water after it finally drinks from the freshwater source.

How Can You Make Your Horse Drink Water?

Horses decline water, especially in an unfamiliar environment or during travel. If this behavior happens continuously, the horse may suffer from poor organ function, performance, or colic. Here are ways to encourage your horse to drink water.

Keep the Water Fresh

You can keep the water clean if you thoroughly clean the water sources. If you will be away for long, get rid of unfresh water and refill. Additionally, ensure that the water is away from sunlight. Sunlight promotes algal and bacterial growth. 

Carry Water from Home

Work on familiarizing the water, which encourages the horse to drink.

Add Flavor to the Water

You may add flavors like molasses, vinegar with apple flavor, and soda. Ensure that the soda doesn’t contain caffeine since it will turn your horse’s drug test positive. You can also wash the water sources with minty cleaners to leave the mint flavor.

Add Electrolyte

Electrolytes help in hydrating the horse, hence encouraging it to drink. Understand the instructions before use to prevent an overdose. If a commercial electrolyte is not available, you can use salt – it’s also a good way of hydrating the horse. 

If you use the electrolytes, ensure enough water for your horse since a low water supply will dehydrate your horse. Have a separate source of water free from the additive. Some horses are picky and can’t drink water with additives. 

Add Commercial Water Products

There are commercial additives available in the market that makes a horse crave water. The ingredients contain feed flavors with the smell and taste that horses like; however, they lack electrolytes. If your horse gets sweaty after using the additives, you may consider adding electrolytes.

How Can You Know If Your Horse Is Dehydrated?

Dehydration symptoms vary in horses. Here are some signs to look to detect dehydration.


Lethargy can be a sign of dehydration or disorders such as Potomac fever and swamp fever. A dehydrated horse is usually inactive and likes to keep to itself. At this stage, give your horse enough water and hydrate it with electrolytes. If Lethargy is not treated, the horse can be permanently lame or die. 

Dull and Dry Eyes

The eyes of a horse show how much an animal is hydrated. Therefore, if they are dull and dry, it means the hose is dehydrated. Sometimes they may seem to sink in the eye skull.


A horse loses a lot of body fluid when training, walking, or riding in a hot climate. However, if your horse sweats excessively, it may dehydrate and finally suffer from Anhidrosis.

A horse with Anhidrosis has malfunctioning sweat glands – that is, they don’t produce sweat. Besides chronic dehydration, climate, diet, and genetics influence anhidrosis. 

Pale Mucous Membranes

A healthy horse usually has pink gums. Thus, if the color is different, it could signify a horse is suffering from dehydration, infection, anemia, or blood loss. If it’s pale, then it is dehydrated.

Loss of Appetite

Horses have big appetites; therefore, if they reject the food, that is a red flag. Loss of appetite can be due to physical problems like dehydration. 

Dehydration feels sick; that’s why the horse may lose interest in feeds. Other ailments include intestinal pains and colic. Such a horse should feed on electrolytes and adequate bodily fluids.

Tenting of the Skin

A healthy horse has elastic skin. Pinch the skin and test how flexible the skin is. If it’s sticky or stays a long time without flattening after pinching, then the horse is dehydrated. 

Dark Urine

Healthy urine is light or dark yellow or has a straw color. But if it’s brown, that signals dehydration. The kidney of a dehydrated horse retains water leading to darker urine coming out. Also, the excretion should be moist.

Which is the Recommended Water Temperature that Horses Can Drink?

Horses drink less water during winter due to the cold temperatures. The trick is raising the water temperatures when the air temperature decreases. Horses prefer ice water to warm water but consume less. Keep the water lukewarm, and the horse will drink the right amount. 

How Often Should I Give My Horse Water While Riding?

A horse should drink water at any time. It would be best not to wait for your horse to beg for water; instead, expose it to natural water sources to help itself. Riding is an intense exercise, and the horse may lose a lot of water through sweat.

Can Health Condition Affect How Much Water A Horse Consumes?

Yes, poor health affects water intake. For instance, a horse suffering from diarrhea loses much water and quickly dehydrates. Insulin imbalance, Cushing, and Polydipsia also affect water intake. 

Facts about Water Intake in Horses

Every horse owner now understands how vital water is to horses. However, before you misunderstand your horse’s water intake, these are common facts you need to know. 

  • A horse consumes water depending on how much it weighs. Heavier horses drink more than the lighter ones. 
  • Water consumption in horses varies. A horse may drink the same amount of water on two consecutive days but more or less on the third day. However, you should measure the average water your horse consumes. If it gets lesser each day, you may consider consulting a vet.
  • Horses that consume significant grass amounts contain high moisture content. A horse that feeds on hay consumes more water than one that consumes grass. 
  • A well-fed horse does not take much time drinking water. A horse takes an average of seven minutes to drink water entirely, but many times.
  • A foal can consume water even when weaning. At most, one gallon per visit. 
  • Horses that perform loads of exercises consume more water than idle horses. However, it depends on the work intensity and the environmental condition. If your horse is the sweaty type, provide it with electrolytes to replace the nutrients that sweat excretes.


Dehydration in horses may lead to harmful ailments and even death. The only way to keep your horse safe is by providing it with clean water in clean sources. Keep checking for dehydration to solve any potential problems at an early stage.