Should horses be allowed to drink cold water?

  • Find out more about winter horsecare and winter feeding

    A wintry spell can pose specific challenges for those keeping competition horses in peak condition meaning a good winter management regime is important.

    Hot or cold water?

    While horses may not visibly sweat as much in cold weather, they still lose water and electrolytes which need to be replaced.

    There is a belief that hot horses should not be allowed to drink cold water. Most horses do not suffer any ill-effects from doing so – out hunting they often drink happily from cold streams.

    However, one study conducted in America showed that, while in the summer ponies drank equal volumes of warm and cold water, in winter they appeared to drink more when the water was warm compared with when it was cold.

    What does this mean in practical terms?

    It suggests that at competitions during the winter, while there is no harm in offering cold water straight out of the tap, horses may be more likely to drink if the water is slightly warmer – between 15-20 °C is ideal.

    To read the full veterinary article about winter management see the current issue of H&H (22 December 2011)

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