What Should I Do If My Horse Isn’t Drinking Water? Preventative Tips & Tricks


My boyfriend and I were on a trail ride one day up in Prescott, Arizona. After the long trailer ride, I thought that the horses might want something to drink. We found a water trough that was there for horses going on the trails, but for some reason, my horses didn’t want to drink the water. Even after the trail ride which took several hours, the horses weren’t interested in the water. This not only made me a little concerned but I also wanted to find out why my horses weren’t drinking water.

What Should I Do If My Horse Isn’t Drinking Water

When your horse stops drinking water it is a very serious matter. Like people horses can only go for a few days without drinking water. Finding the reason your horse isn’t drinking and taking care of that issue right away is crucial otherwise your horse could suffer from extreme dehydration. If your horse isn’t drinking water when at home and is acting out of sorts, I would call a veterinarian to see what the issue is. If you are away from home and your horse isn’t wanting to drink water but is otherwise acting normally, it is probably just because they aren’t familiar with the taste and smell of the water at this new place.

Reasons Why Your Horse Might Stop Drinking

There are many reasons why your horse might not be drinking, but regardless of the reason, finding out why they aren’t drinking is really important. Some of the reasons why your horse might not be drinking include:

They Are Suffering From Colic

When a horse is suffering from Colic, it most likely won’t want to eat or drink anything. This is because colic involves really bad stomach pains which make the horse turn down any food or water you might offer it. If your horse isn’t drinking and is showing colic symptoms, call a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Some common colic symptoms that horses may show include:

  • refusing to eat and drink
  • excessive rolling
  • kicking at their stomach
  • biting at their stomach
  • going into shock
  • excessive sweating
  • unresponsive ears and eyes

They Are Choking

Unlike people, when horses choke, it just means that their esophagus is blocked. This means that horses can still breathe normally when they are choking.

A choking horse will most likely refuse any and all food and water because they are unable to swallow it. If you suspect your horse is choking, calling a vet to clear the esophagus is crucial, otherwise your horse will thirst to death.

Some common symptoms of choking include:

  • low hanging head
  • refusing food or water
  • tight throat or physical blockage
  • drooling
  • laziness
  • nasal discharge
  • food coming out of the horse’s nose or mouth

They Are Nervous Or Anxious

Horses that are nervous or anxious will often refuse their food because they are too focused on something else, or they feel that they are in an unsafe situation. To calm your horse down I suggest giving them some time to adjust, house them with or next to one of their friends, or if the horse is becoming a danger to itself and others, I recommend giving them an oral sedation (you can find these at nearly all feed and tack stores).

You can tell if your horse is anxious if your horse is:

  • pacing
  • neighing excessively
  • weaving
  • pawing

They Aren’t Familiar With The Smell Or Taste Of The Water You Want To Give Them

Horses won’t drink water that smells unfamiliar or unsafe. If your horse isn’t drinking water in a place that is completely new to them, this is because they aren’t familiar with the taste or the smell of the water.

Horses who are okay with their surroundings, show no signs of anxiety, who aren’t showing symptoms of colic or choke, but still aren’t drinking are likely just not thirsty, or they don’t like the way the water tastes.

How To Prevent Your Horse Stopping Their Drinking When Traveling Or Going To Shows

If you have a trip planned or have a horse show coming up, I have a great tip for you that will keep your horse drinking water the entire time you are away rom home.

I recommend mixing Gatorade, Powerade, another electrolyte drink, or apple juice into their water at home for a few days to a week before the show or trip. This way they adjust to drinking this flavored water before the show or trip. Then, when on the trip, mix the same juice or drink into their water so it smells and tastes familiar. Tah-dah! Problem solved!

I personally like to use apple juoce over the other drinks because it is a little more natureal and healthy for the horses, but any and all of these drinks work well!

How To Keep My Horse Drinking Water Consistently

If your horse isn’t drinking their water consistently and they aren;t showing any signs of illness, you need to fix this issue as soon as possible. There are a few things that I recommend doing to make your horse drink more water and stay hydrated.

These things are:

Give Your Horse A Mineral Or Salt Block

You migh notice that after you eat something really salty like a bag of potato chips or soemthong similar that you want to drink something right after. This is because salt is a known dehydrator. If you provide your horse wilth a salt or mineral bloc, especially in summer, they are more likely to drink more water if they are consistently licking their block.

Give Them Electrolytes

Just like people, horses need electrolytes. I recommend Feedign your horse electrolytes through its water or in a supplement that the horse eats. This will promote hydration in the horse’s body.

Make Sure Your Horse’s Water Is Clean

No one wants to drink gross smwlly water, even hores don;t watn to. If you notice tha toyur horse stopped drinking its bwater, try scrubbing their water bucket or trough out or change the water in their waterer. This will make it more likely fro them to drink more.

Fresh clean water is so much better smelling and tasting than old stagnant water that’s been sitting.

Make Sure The Horse’s Water Isn’t Too Hot Or Too Cold

In winter, horses will often stop drinking their water if they dfeel that it is too cold. Adding a heat sorce or mixing in warm water every so often will help to promote more frequent drinking and reduce dehydration. Make sure theur water is cool and not too hot or too cold.

Hailey Johnson

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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