Water plays a HUGE role in preventing winter colic


With some very cold weather being experienced by many of us right now and temperatures set to plummet in some areas of the world this month, we felt this was an important topic to cover.  Whether your horse is stabled or living out we all know access to a clean source of water 24/7 is essential for our horses to thrive, and avoid complications such as dehydration and impaction colic.  Horses require a lot of water for their digestive system to function properly due to their high fibre diet: the water helps food move along the digestive system and prevents blockages.  Horses also require water to be able to sweat and cool themselves down – it is an outdated myth to withhold water after exercise.

Did you know:

  • An average 500kg (approximately 15hh) horse drinks around 30-50 litres a day and they will often drink less water when it is ICY COLD, particularly if there are any dental issues.
  • Most horses will often not break the ice on water, even a thin layer of ice will prevent some horses from drinking.  Please ensure that you break the ice and remove all or most of it to prevent it from resealing quickly.  Revisit and repeat the process of breaking and removing ice regularly to ensure access to water is maintained.
  •  A study from Penn State University has shown that increasing water temperature from just above freezing to 4-18° Celsius will increase the amount of water consumed by up to 40% – this information is so beneficial to all horse owners.  In some parts of the world a water heater is recommended; although not a common thing in the UK it is an interesting idea if it improves water consumption in cold weather and prevents colic and dehydration (see our Gadgets section below).
  • Water in grass and snow is not enough – owners are often heard saying, he’s drunk less but it has been wet or he must be eating the snow.  Beware – snow is not a substitute for water! 

GADGETS – Winter Waterers: To see ideas and options to supply clean water to your horses and even heat it in cold weather, click here


KEEP DEHYDRATION IN MIND during cold weather.  Dehydration is a serious issue that increases the risk of impaction colic.  

  • If you think your horse is dehydrated or has colic, call the vet.
  • Plan ahead – in cold weather ensure you have a back-up supply of water, invest in water carriers to bring water from home, or fill every clean bucket at the yard and cover with a rug if you need to do so to prevent it from freezing.
  • Insulate water pipes and taps and further cover them with turnout rugs or blankets to keep water supplies flowing.
  • Water your feeds really well to help with hydration.
  • Any signs of colic – call your vet.



RSPCA WEBSITE: How much water does my horse need, click here

HorseTalk, click here

University of Guelph, click here


About Author

Sarah is our Head of Content - Here to support our members to deliver interesting and useful content. Sarah is often behind the scenes of webinars, the Private Facebook Group and running the website. Please do not hesitate to contact Sarah should you need any support!