Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Travelling with Your Horse: Tips to Encourage Your Horse to Drink Unfamiliar Water

By: Darlene M. Cox (

Anyone who has traveled longer distances with their horse knows the difficulty you are faced with when trying to get your horse to drink unfamiliar water. Generally, I will take some water from home, stored in two 20-gallon plastic storage containers to offset some of the trepidation my horse will have toward drinking while on the road. However, it is impossible to transport enough water for a week’s worth of camping and riding; therefore, you have to teach your horse that strange water is okay to drink.

There are several different ways to encourage your horse to drink while traveling:

  • · Flavor the water with electrolyte powders, Gatorade, or Kool-Aid. Begin this several days in advance at home to get your horse used to drinking the flavored water. While traveling, the flavorings will mask the taste of the strange water and your horse should drink without hesitation.

  • · Bring along the watering bucket your horse is accustomed to from home. He has been drinking from it and is very familiar with its smell and shape.

  • · Add a little salt to your horse’s grain at each feeding. The salt will trigger thirst and encourage drinking.

  • · Fill a syringe with syrup or molasses. A sticky mouth might encourage your horse to drink to get rid of the stickiness.

  • · After filling the water bucket, let the water warm up by setting it in the sun. Horses generally do not like to drink ice cold water straight from the tap, and when you add to it that the water is from an unfamiliar source, your horse may be less inclined to drink.

  • · Place apple wedges in the water bucket. As your horse mouths the apple wedges, he may also decide he wants to drink some water, too.

  • · Keep his water bucket filled and in front of him at all times when you are not riding. After he samples the water several times, he may decide that it is okay to drink.

  • · If your horse doesn’t drink much and you are concerned about dehydration, administer a tube of electrolyte paste. This will offset dehydration and encourage him to drink as well.

Generally speaking, horses that are at first a little hesitant to drink from strange watering sources will begin to drink them in short order. Sometimes it may take a little while and some encouragement and tricks on your part to help him over the hump.

Happy trails!