Winter Nutrition Tip: Don’t Forget the Water


Provide adequate water for your horse during the winter monthsPiles of fluffy snow in your pasture—and a horse that nibbles at them—might make you think your horse is all set for water this winter. Think again, please! The main cause of colic during the winter is from reduced water consumption. Snow will not provide enough water: A gallon (128 fluid ounces) of average-moisture snow only contains 10 ounces of water, far short of the 8-12 gallons of water your horse should consume each day. Also, eating snow will force your horse to burn precious calories to keep his body temperature steady.

Horses will not drink enough when the water is icy cold. Plan on heating your horse’s water to 50° F. And don’t forget the salt—it is necessary for electrolyte balance as well as to encourage your horse to drink. Either add table salt to each meal (one tablespoon, twice daily) or offer it free choice in a small bucket. A white salt block is helpful, though many horses avoid them. Mineralized or blue (from added iodine and cobalt) salt blocks are only appropriate if hay is the single feed source or if your horse is not receiving minerals from fortified feeds or supplements.

— Dr. Juliet Getty, Ph.D.

For more nutrition tips, visit Dr. Juliet Getty’s website at


  1. Last year my riding instructor gave me the job of feeding & caring for the horses on Sundays and holidays because our stablehand asked to take those days off. In the wintertime my dad & I would come at 7 in the morning and if the water buckets were frozen, go to each stall, hammer out the ice, scoop it out with our fingers, and either attempt to use the usually frozen hose to fill the buckets or haul each bucket to the water pump on the other side of the barn and haul them back only to have the horses suck down the water greedily and make us have to top all the buckets off again. Then we also had to feed everyone their grain & hay, and muck out the stalls & blanket all the horses appropriately to the what the weather was. It was worth every frozen finger & wet pair of jeans though when the horses would all whinny for us the next day we entered the barn. It made all the trouble seem not so troubling after all. Besides, they were horses, and deserved the best!

  2. every day i have to carry to 5 gallon buckets of hot water out like 4 times a day to my 2 horses its a lot of work buts its worth it.i end up leaving the on bucket out side for they have the ot water to drink then a take the other one and break the ice on my water buckets and take the ice out with my bare hands the poor the hot water in it.


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