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HELP! New horse DOES NOT drink water :(

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  • HELP! New horse DOES NOT drink water :(

    Sigh! I just purchased a new horse and was warned he doesn't drink a lot of water. Previous owner said they noticed he drank more if his water trough was emptied and cleaned DAILY. I asked what would happen if it wasn't done daily, because I just can't do that everyday, especially because of the cold climate I am in. Previous owner said the owner before likely never did it so he probably would be OK.

    Fast forward one month later. Temperature sky rocketed and then dropped more than thirty degrees in less than 12 hours. New kind of hay started last week, and it's a bit coarse compared to what he was getting before, badly needed his teeth done but wanted to give him a bit of time to settle in first and horse colics with an impaction bad enough to warrant a 5 day stay at the vet clinic and a HUGE bill. I have to wonder if he has colicked in the past

    He has stayed on constant IV fluids and vet says he just DOES NOT drink any water at all. So, once he comes home, is recommending we soak his hay and bran mash him. He was back to normal today and ready to come home so his teeth got floated and they definitely were bad. There must be someone else on here with an extremely weird horse like mine who knows some tricks as far as getting them to drink. I know about electrolytes and he is on those right now, putting apple juice in the water, although I don't think taste is the problem and our water is actually quite yummy. I plan on switching to dumping his water every day , I am thinking about switching him to hay cubes and soaking them, which might be easier than soaking hay, especially in the winter. I'm also planning on keeping him on a daily bran mash. Any other inventive ideas for a horse who doesn't drink and tries to kill himself, as I worry this is going to be a constant re-occurance despite the drastic weather change and new hay?

  • #2
    What about adding salt to his feed each time?

    Watching Hawk Arabians
    Home of ZEGAS
    *Ganges x Zabrynka


    • #3
      If you are going to try a horsey cordial e.g. mollasses + water (which i have never known a horse to turn down) or gatorade + water (heard mixed success) make sure that the horse always has access to normal clean water as well.

      You can wet down his feeds, soak hay and give him a salt lick or make your own electrolyte mix by adding equal parts table or rock salt, bicarbonate and epsom salts and give him a tablespoon each day.

      Check his hydration by doing the pinch test (pinching the skin on the neck and seeing how long it takes to smooth out, if it snaps back more or less within a second or two horse is adequately hydrated, if it stays raised or goes down very slowly horse is likely dehydrated) check manure to see if it is moist looking, not dry.. Maybe after a few weeks you will start to become familiar with how much water this particular horse needs.


      • #4
        Here are a couple of things to try:
        First, since it is a hassle to dump and clean a trough daily, why not hang a couple of 5 gal flatback water buckets near the horse's feed bucket? easier to moniter consumption, and far easier to dump and clean daily.

        We had an event horse that would not drink on the road, and he had all his hay soaked daily....and his grain was soaked too, to provide all the H2O possible. Another event trainer suggested a tiny handful of bran floated on the water bucket, that did not work for our horse, but worked for another.

        try a couple tablespoons (a slosh from the bottle) of apple cider vinegar to one of the buckets, and keep track which bucket you put it in. It may stimulate drinking.

        Squirt some of the water from a bucket into the mouth with a turkey baster, and just let him keep tasting it...the flushing may stimulate him to drink.

        I agree with adding a bit of salt or electrolytes to the feed...can't hurt.
        What would you try if you knew you would not fail?


        • #5
          Some horses are just very particular about their water quality. I have field troughs that of course aren't cleaned daily! More likely every 3 months. But they are all cistern filled and with the number of horses I have they pretty much have a constant refill each week. However all mine have water buckets or auto drinkers in their stables too. I've quite a few that prefer to drink there and only drink minimally in the field. With the water in my stables, the buckets and auto fillers are cleaned every day and so there's a fresh supply in there daily. Also the temperature is much more constant in there. I put salt in water buckets in the stables too and they've got salt licks and to encourage drinking.

          It's an important one to sort out though because a horse requires on average 5 gallons of water a day.

          A horse's preference is to drink water at temperatures between 36 and 50 degrees and from a clean supply.

          Its important for aiding digestion, reducing toxins as well as for regulating temperature. In hot conditions a horse should drink more than the average and up to 8 gallons per day. Regrettably too many horses do not have access to a good clean supply and rather are drinking from streams or standing water too warm in troughs not cleaned regularly enough and with algae or otherwise contaminated and/or tainted.

          And if a horse does not have access to a good clean supply then of course it will still drink but only the minimal amount. And sadly too many horse owners kid themselves into thinking that things like algae and a bit of dirt or a taste of sulphur or some algae does no harm or that the horse enjoys it. They say things like "your horse will get used to the water here" - but that shouldn't be the case and it won't be. All that will happen is that the horse will drink it if there's all that's available and it will stop complaining because there's no point. In the same way if you were in the desert with only a muddy sulphurous pool to drink from you'd put up and shut up. And you'd drink no more than you need to survive.

          In fact though what happens is that the horse will pull water from its digestive tract and will be considerably more predisposed to colic and laminitis. So again its a reason why that happens this time of year when the horse is still having a diet with quite a lot of dry forage matter.

          So a timely opportunity to remember how essential good clean good quality water is and the horse is likely to be eating dry matter (hay).

          Over time, horses with access only to poor water will also hypersensitise and have chronic liver damage often resultant in photosensitisation and a host of other secondary difficulties.

          Quite simply if you won't drink your horse's water supply, then the horse shouldn't be expected to drink it.

          To encourage a horse to take in more water put salt or molasses in a clean fresh bucket of water and even let him drink from a running a hose pipe - all mine love this. I always refresh their mouths out with a cold hose when they've done a lot of work in the heat and they love to drink from it too. Use smaller auto drinkers with a syphon filler which means that the water is constantly being topped up with a clean supply.

          Soak its hay so its getting water as well as dry matter.

          Ensure its at the optimum temperature and not too cold. That means we all need to do more than just break the ice on the top of the trough. Troughs need to be sited so the water isn't getting really hot when it's sunny too.

          And to help avoid impaction aside from increasing water...
          Mix any hard feed with water so its quite sloppy
          put plenty of oil in the feed to help to prevent compaction
          Put in varied textures so the horse isn't bolting its food - chopped carrots, swedes, cabbage leaves and such are all good so it sorts through and picks things out steadily.

          For a horse that is prone to colic, spread soaked hay about in a field so its walking and forage grazing rather than static greedily eating.


          • #6
            I have one oldster here who has always been a sipper. . . I have always been concerned that he does not drink very much water from the 5 gallon bucket in his stall. . . he's old, so all his food is now soaked along with his beet pulp, he can't chew hay, so his alfalfa cubes are soaked as well. It seems to work for him. Whenever the temps rise here, I start the electrolytes. I do not put things in their water, as that seems to offend them more. He does drink out of the outside water troughs, though sips there as well.

            However, I had a mare who loved to "drink big". She would sip from her stall bucket, but when out she would dive into the big trough, water up over her nose, and drink and drink.

            It may be in the presentation. (this mare would also not drink if her water bucket was dark in color, she preferred a lighter colored bucket. . . go figure) she was a highly opinionated red-headed TB.
            "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you..."


            • #7
              I have a friend whose horse only drank HOT water. Winter or summer , her bucket had to be hot. She wasn't a big drinker prior to changing to hot water. I second the salt, molasses, gatorade, whatever it takes to get the horse to drink. you might have to try a few things and give each a few days to see if that's he trick, but keep it up. My dearly departed Arab, very seldom drank from her stall buckets, but would drink well from the outside( heated in winter) trough. I've been using the trough cleaning bags from Tractor Supply to keep my oudoor tub clear of algae. It's a litle burlap bag of, I think, barley that seems to eat the algae. Toss one in when you clean/fill the tub and replace it in two months. I was skeptical at first, but Itried on last summer and it worked well.


              • #8
                Well water or municipal water? Whichever you have, try the other. I was worried that my critters that were raised on well water wouldn't drink when I moved to chlorinated county water. Surprize! They drink more of the county water than they ever did well water. FWIW, I loved the taste of the well water, the county water is icky to me.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by LoveMyArabians View Post
                  What about adding salt to his feed each time?

                  Ditto this. I would at least add a table spoon of iodized salt to his supplements every day.

                  From Pete Ramey "Feeding the Horse"
                  Salt is another very common deficiency I see everywhere I go. Most horse owners think that if they provide a salt block, the horses’ sodium needs are met. In truth, horses do not receive adequate levels of sodium by licking a salt block. One sedentary horse would have to consume over 2 pounds (an entire stall sized brick) in one month. If he was working, he might need 2-4 times more than that. Salt is ideally provided in a loose form. Most horse owners don’t realize how critical it is for their horse’s sodium needs to be met. [Sodium is essential for absorption of many nutrients, as well as their entry into cells (including glucose), essential for the normal functioning of all nerve and muscle tissue. Sodium is also the major regulator of water balance in tissues. In addition to “holding” water in the tissues, sodium is what the brain “reads” in determining when to trigger thirst and when to regulate the amount of sodium, and therefore water, the body excretes in the urine. If sodium intake is too low, the kidneys will actively excrete potassium and save sodium, even if blood potassium levels drop below normal. This is a very, very common mistake made when supplementing performance horses.

                  Insufficient sodium inevitably leads to some dehydration. The brain reads sodium levels in the cerebrospinal fluid. The cerebrospinal fluid in turn is a filtrate of blood. Blood levels of sodium will be maintained by “stealing” sodium from the extracellular fluid. This leads to the decrease in skin elasticity that is familiar sign of mild to moderate dehydration. The rule of thumb is that as little as 2 to 3% dehydration can lead to a 10% drop in performance. However, excessive intakes need to be avoided. Eleanor Kellon. VMD] Again, actually testing and supplementing specific amounts is optimum


                  • #10
                    Most of the ideas that I would suggest have already been suggested but the only other thing I can think of is the depth of the trough and/or the colour. It really is a bit of a long shot as you seem to have tried almost everything else.

                    When you teach lambs or foals that you hand raise to drink - they always prefer a light coloured bucket that's wide and accessible. If you try and get them to put their faces into something dark (particularly if it is deep enough to be near eye level) it can discourage them.

                    Is your trough completely full or does it have sides that reach higher than the water level?

                    Just a thought...


                    • #11
                      Would installing a waterer be a possibility? Our pens have them, so they always have fresh water. If your boy is picky about how fresh his water is, it might work, even though you can't add stuff to it.
                      A proud friend of bar.ka.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by spaghetti legs View Post
                        If you are going to try a horsey cordial e.g. mollasses + water (which i have never known a horse to turn down) or gatorade + water (heard mixed success) make sure that the horse always has access to normal clean water as well.

                        You can wet down his feeds, soak hay and give him a salt lick or make your own electrolyte mix by adding equal parts table or rock salt, bicarbonate and epsom salts and give him a tablespoon each day.

                        Check his hydration by doing the pinch test (pinching the skin on the neck and seeing how long it takes to smooth out, if it snaps back more or less within a second or two horse is adequately hydrated, if it stays raised or goes down very slowly horse is likely dehydrated) check manure to see if it is moist looking, not dry.. Maybe after a few weeks you will start to become familiar with how much water this particular horse needs.
                        FWIW, my mare won't touch water with molasses in it. She'll specifically avoid it and wait for just plain water to be available.

                        Hunter Mom; Automatic waterers are often harder to clean though, I think. You can't really dump and scrub them like a bucket.
                        Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!


                        • #13
                          A horse in our barn was a poor drinker and had an impaction. When he returned from the vet school after surgery his hay was changed from grass hay to alfalfa. He has been drinking normally ever since the switch.


                          • #14
                            1. Top dress his feed with salt
                            2. Pour a packet of ice tea mix in his bucket or gatorade or applue juice.
                            3. Offer him WARM water from a small bucket by hand.
                            4. Wet down all his food and hay, you can even (in the cooler months) put his hay in a tub filled with water, he can pick it out.
                            Do not take anything to heart. Do not hanker after signs of progress. Founder of the Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                            • #15
                              I am also an owner of a horse that loves clean warm/hot water, regardless of the time of year. I chalked it up to him being a bit odd, but the vet/dentist just found a cracked tooth which could be playing into this aversion to cool or cold water. He also drinks only out of buckets that have been cleaned. If the troughs are dirty, he will wait to come in, or drink out of the cool running stream.

                              Things we have done:
                              Put an insulated bucket in the stall, so that whatever temperature the water goes in at, it stays in at. All buckets are scrubbed daily.

                              Pour 2 inches of Motts apple juice over the top of the water in the bucket (the juice paks don't need to be refrigerated if that is an issue). He drank it right down. This works well for traveling, too.

                              Added apple flavored sugarless electrolytes to his food. Does the trick every time, and we only need 1 teaspoon of it to trigger the drinking.

                              For troughs, the white glazed bathtubs keep the water cooler than the rubbermaid tubs, and are easier to clean. We have to refill those 3-4 times a day for the herd, whereas the horses don't even want to drink out of the rubber tanks once the heat comes in for the summer, regardless of its cleanliness. So, we dig bathtubs out of storage each summer, and they get those as well.They LOVE the water fresh out of those bathtubs! I think the stuff coming out of the rubbertaks just plain smells bad.
                              "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



                              • #16
                                You could look into the product "Quench".


                                • #17
                                  Another vote for hay cubes soaked to a soup-like consistency. The water needs to be HOT for them to dissolve in a timely manner, then I add some cooler water before serving. I have a mare who DOES. NOT. DRINK. WATER. Literally, never even takes a sip, whether it's warm, cold, flavored, plain, whatever. I feed her the hay cube soup three times a day and it keeps her well hydrated.
                                  Ristra Ranch Equestrian Jewelry


                                  • #18
                                    If you go with a soaked food (in addition to hay cubes or soaked hay) I would NOT have it be a bran mash. Maybe that is appropriate in the short term due to the horse's impaction, so maybe question the vet on that? My impression is that bran is not a balanced food (it throws calcium or phosphorus all out of whack, quite sure it's phosphorus) and that it can be harsh on the intestines.

                                    I would soak one or more of the following: beet pulp, grass pellets, alfalfa pellets. I mix beet pulp and alfalfa pellets about 50-50 and feed the mixture soaked. In the winter I soak it to sloppiness.
                                    Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.


                                    • #19
                                      You can actually turn just about any processed feed into a mash if you want to. Obviously oats do not dissolve. But any pelleted or extruded feed will. Take his normal ration and soak it into a nice liquid soupy mess and enjoy the slurping noises he makes when he eats it.

                                      I got one of mine to drink two gallons of water the other morning by stirring half a cup of unsweetened apple sauce into it. He thought it was a pretty nifty treat.


                                      • #20
                                        Soak all food, offer a soaked beet pulp (better than bran), alfalfa will also make them drink. There are buckets by Equi-Fit that have silver impregnated plastic which resists becoming slimy. I just bought two for my non drinker, they are not cheap but neither is spending time with the vet or at the vet hospital. Mine has to have pristine buckets or he is not drinking. Now he drinks quite well and a lot, his meals are still wet but not his hay (which is alfalfa cubes) and he gets a large beet pulp to pick on all night long which is a little soupy. With all the wet food he always looks like a toddler with chocolate cake face, only his is green.