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HomeFeaturesAgricultureExtension Notes: Water is nutrient number 1 for horses

Extension Notes: Water is nutrient number 1 for horses

By: Rebecca Konopka
Carter County Extension Agent

Horses rely on many nutrients to thrive including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. However, water is the most important nutrient. Water accounts for nearly 75% of a horse’s body weight. Most horses need at least 6-8 gallons every day, but the amount required will vary based on weather or diet.  In hot weather, horses will need more water, and a horse eating hay requires more than one on pasture. Lactating broodmares always require more water.  

Always prioritize fresh, clean water for your animals for many reasons. Adequate hydration reduces the risk of colic and plays a vital role in digestion. Water helps horses regulate their body temperature, lubricates joints, assists in muscle contraction strength and get rid of waste.  

Most horse managers easily prioritize clean, fresh water in the barn. They have a daily routine of checking, cleaning and filling water buckets. But outside water may end up being more accidental than routine. You can’t rely on streams and ponds for your water source. Horse traffic can break down stream banks, contaminate the water source and even cause animal injuries. Regularly check stock tanks and troughs, frequently change the water and clean the container.  

Stock tank water may get a bit warmer than what some horses prefer, so watching the capacity of the watering device can help. Keep water cooler by changing it more often or having the water refreshed in the waterer more often. This can help provide water horses want to drink. Carefully consider where to dump dirty water in the field so you don’t create muddy areas.  

Forages contain moisture and grazing horses will get some daily hydration while munching on pasture. However, still offer free-choice water sources for horses to visit throughout the day.  

Learn to recognize dehydration signs in your horses. By the time you see the signs, your horse may have already lost 5% of its body weight. Dehydrated horses appear weak, have sunken eyeballs, dry mucous membranes, slow capillary refill time and an increased heart rate. Pinch the horse’s skin near the base of their neck for two seconds. If the skin stays pinched, your horse most likely needs water and possibly electrolytes.  

For more information about horse management, contact the Carter County Cooperative Extension Service.  Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability. 

Upcoming Events:

  • Hike & Learn – June 1st @ 9:00 AM – Carter Caves State Resort Park – Natural Bridge Trail & Owl Pellet Dissection
  • Senior Farmer’s Market Vouchers – Seniors interested in receiving Farmer’s Market vouchers this year should call 474-6686 between 8:30-4:00 on June 6th & 7th to schedule an appointment to pick up their Farmer’s Market voucher card.
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  • Ag Advancement Council – June 9th @ 6:00 PM


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