The Horse 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. Frustrated, we tested out every trick in the book to get this horse to drink something!

We’ve gotten 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 optimal health, we have to keep them hydrated! A well hydrated horse typically intakes 10-12 gallons of water each day. Healthy horses should drink normally.┬áTo help those who have to please the picky pallets, here are 7 strategies to try to convince Sensitive Sammy to take a sip!

1) Add salt to meals

Adding salt to meals or via oral syringe can encourage horses to drink. 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 in the mixture. I would avoid putting salt in water buckets, as I find it deters horses from drinking the water and can cause gastric discomfort.

The Well Horse choice: HydraBoost by Hallway Feeds

2) Try well water

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, he could dislike the chlorine taste 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) Flavor the water

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!

Sweet Feed

Alfalfa Pellets





Apple juice

4) Soaked Hay Cubes/ Beet Pulp

Another way to add water in your horse’s diet each day is to soak beet pulp or hay cubes. With 6 quarts of soaked hay cubes (two 3-quart scoops) you can easily get 2-3 gallons of water in a horse.

5) Feed Under Water

This method may not 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 this sounds, there are horses who prefer light colored buckets! Black buckets were a no go, so we stuck with teal, lime green, and yellow.

7) Watch Another Horse Drink

Horses have a herd mentality. For a horse that won’t drink, try bringing him to water with a horse who dives in. This can encourage the picky horse to take some sips.

3 Comments on “The Horse Won’t Drink

  1. Pingback: Starter Pack to GI Health – The Well Horse

  2. Pingback: 5 Ways to Improve a Horse’s Road Trip – The Well Horse

  3. Pingback: Choosing the best feed for my horse – The Well Horse

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