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Drinking Water

16 August 2011 No Comment

Drinking Water
We asked horse training expert Dr. Jessica Jahiel, whose teaching goal is to develop balanced, willing, forward horses and thoughtful riders. More about Dr.Jahiel

Question
From: Stan

I’ve got a question about horse’s drinking water. I’ve always heard that horse’s shouldn’t be allowed to drink a lot of water when they’re hot because it can make them colic. I’ve taught my kids to bring their horses in cool, and if they’re not cool to walk them cool, and then to let them stop at the water tank just long enough to drink a little, then they walk them some more, let them drink a little more, and so on. The kids are very good about doing this whether I’m home or not. But I wondered if there’s some way to tell just how much the horses are drinking? The tank is 100 gallons, and it isn’t always full to the brim, so there’s no way to guess from the level before and after the horse drinks. We usually just pull them away from the tank after a couple of minutes. How much would an average horse drink in that time, do you know? A gallon a minute? Two gallons? And, how much should we let them have in between walking sessions? My father taught me never to turn a hot horse loose near a water tank, is that still correct practice?

Thanks for everything! Stan

Answer
Hi Stan! Your father isn’t alone – this is an old, old practice based on an old, old way of watering horses. Yes, a huge amount of very cold water, taken suddenly, might cause a horse to have a digestive upset or worse. But these days, this isn’t as much of a problem.

When horses were kept in tie stalls when they weren’t working, and taken out of the stables twice a day to be watered, they quickly learned to drink as much as they could hold when they were given access to the trough or tank. But most horses these days are kept in stalls or paddocks or pastures with full-time access to water in buckets or tanks, and so are very unlikely to drink as much at one time as an old-time workhorse. Even very hot horses are less likely to drink too much at once if they are accustomed to having full-time access to water.

Having said that, I should also say that your policy of bringing the horses in cool and/or walking them cool once they’re home is a very good one. “Walk the first mile out and the last mile back” is still excellent advice. I can’t tell you exactly how much any individual horse will drink in a certain number of minutes – but I can tell you that, in general, a typical horse will consume a quart of water in about twelve swallows. So if you and your family want to monitor the amount of water your horses consume during the cooling-out process, you can certainly allow each horse twelve swallows between walking periods. Or you could follow the racetrack tradition of walking the horse around the shedrow, pausing to allow the horse six swallows of water, then walking around the shedrow again, pausing again, etc., until the horse no longer wants any water. It’s one of the more useful racetrack traditions.)

It sounds to me as if you’re doing a great job with your horses – and your children.

Sincerely, Jessica

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