Tips for Getting Horses to Drink Strange Water

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Is your horse picky about drinking water when he’s away from home? Maybe the local water smells or tastes just a little bit different from what he’s used to, and that is enough to back him off of drinking, even if he’s thirsty. Or maybe it’s the bucket you carry in your trailer: is it new (unusual smell), made of a different material (odd feel), or not shaped the same as his normal stall bucket (suspicious appearance)?

Horses don’t like change, and this fact can be frustrating to owners who wish their horses would just go ahead and try the water that’s being offered.

One solution is to get the horse used to a particular flavoring in his water at home. The same flavor can be used to make any water seem familiar. Powdered cherry drink mix is a favorite of some horses, while others might favor a bit of apple juice stirred into the water.

Beer is another taste that many horses enjoy, and an advantage is that beer is easily found at many convenience stores that might not offer powdered drink mix or apple juice. Horses digest beer well, and the alcohol in one bottle won’t have any negative effect on your horse. Note: If you are competing, check with your discipline’s governing body to be sure this small amount of alcohol won’t violate any regulations.

Don’t wait until you’re on the road to see if these flavors appeal to your horse. Several weeks before you plan to travel, mix a small amount of one flavoring agent into a bucket of water and see if your horse will drink it. If he accepts it, add a bit more each day so that he gets used to an amount that can mask an unusual taste or smell.

Once you find a taste that is appealing to your horse, remember to reintroduce it a few days ahead of any planned travel.

Visit Kentucky Equine Research's website for more nutrition information.