7 Tips for when He Just Won’t Drink

A week ago we had a thoroughbred come off the track to our farm that simply refused to drink. He didn’t have major emotional distress or physical discomfort other than a bit of dehydration. As management, we were left scratching our heads and testing out every trick in the book to get this horse to drink something!

We’ve been able to get some fantastic ideas from readers that have proved to be quite helpful! As spring creeps upon us, our horses have to deal with warming temperatures, shifting forage quality, increasing work load, changing schedules, and other systemic ‘stressers’.

To help our horses maintain optimum health, we have to keep them hydrated! A well hydrated horse typically intakes 10-12 gallons of water each day.

Healthy horses should theoretically drink normally. For some owners maintaining this expectation is an easy task, but for others, hydration efforts can be pretty intensive! To help those who have to please the picky pallets, here are 7 things to try to convince Sensitive Sammy to take a sip!

1) Add Salt

Adding salt to meals or via oral syringe can can help to increase thirst in horses. Electrolytes are wonderful as well for the same reason, but if you go with an electrolyte be sure to go with one that is ‘salt based’ vs sugar based. There should be at least 50% salt. I am also not a fan of putting salt in water buckets, as I find it deters horses from drinking the water and can cause gastric discomfort.

*Apple Elite Electrolytes* https://www.farnam.com/all-products/supplements/elite

2) Try Water from the Well

City water is typically chlorinated, which is wonderful for sanitizing what we drink, but not so much for the picky pallet! If your horse doesn’t like to drink off the farm, they could dislike the taste of chlorine in the water at public places. To combat this, you can bring water from home, or bring a flavoring that your horse will like.

3) Flavors

Flavors are helpful to encourage a horse to drink a couple extra sips when his nose is in the bucket. Horses tend to be quite particular about their personal preferences, but here are some of the ‘tried and sometimes true’ additives!

Concentrate pellets, Alfalfa, Gatorade, Molasses, Sugar, Watermelon, Apple juice,

*Horse Quencher* @ https://horsequencher.com

4) Soaked Hay Cubes/ Beet Pulp

Another way to get a bit more water in your horse each day is to soak and serve beet pulp or hay cubes. With 6 quarts of soaked hay cubes (2 3-quart scoops) you can easily get 2-3 gallons of water in a horse.

5) Feed Under Water

I have not found this method to be successful with all horses, but if you have a horse who doesn’t like to drink in the stall, you might consider trying to feed his grain under water. Most concentrate formulas will sink to the bottom of a water bucket before dissolving, and if the horse will drink his way to his breakfast, then you have a solution!

6) Try Different Color Buckets

As crazy as I thought this sounded, I had a pony who preferred light colored buckets! Black buckets were a no go, so we stuck with teal, lime green, and yellow.

7) Watch Another Horse Drink

Since horses think via herd mentality, for a horse that won’t drink, bringing him to water with a horse who dives in can encourage him to take some sips.


Published by

Madison Maavere

Hello, I am a young professional in the equine industry with a passion for improving horses' physical health and emotional wellness. I grew up riding horses in north Georgia and by the time I was 10, I decided I wanted to ride professionally. This dream grew into the mountain that I climbed every day, striving to reach the top. Until I was 16, I did not have my own horses, so I began diving whole-heartedly into any barn that would allow me to work off rides, training, and showing. While this path may not have gotten me the most blues in the show ring, it opened my eyes and my heart to the vastness of the horse world and how perception based it can be. When I was 16, my family moved out on 6 acres so I could have my horses at home (IE, so my family could see me on a daily basis), and for this, I am truly grateful. Running my own farm, albeit small, was liberating and humbling, and it revealed to me that my passion was not so much for riding sport, but for the love of the horse. Fast forward 6 years, and I am well into my final year as an undergraduate Equine Science/Management major at the University of Kentucky. I have been so fortunate in the opportunities I've received here and the relationships I've been able to build. The cutting edge research, quality horsemanship, and innovative businesses located around Lexington, KY have given me a strong sense of reality, and inspired me to really look at where I can make an impact in today's horse world. What I've realized is that while I like equestrian sports, I love the horse. Moreover, I love to help the horse. I want it to be happy and relaxed, to be sound and comfortable, to eat well and be healthy. I want the horse to have every defense against pathalogical disease, and I want it to have skill sets that people value so it can live a long, loved life. In this love, I feel called to advocate for the horse. I want to learn everything I can about how to improve horses' sustainable wellness, and I want to share what I learn so that horsemen of all experience, backgrounds, and goals can feel inspired and enabled to improve their horses' lives. It is my true desire to initiate and spread a dynamic in which horses are not for the industry, but the industry is for the horses.

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