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WATER is essential for life and health. Without water a horse would probably die in few days.

A horse drinks up to 30 litres in a day, and even more during a hot summer day. The lactating mares with foals are the highest consumpters.

WATER is needed for…


… helps swallowing and provides a fluid medium for the food to passalonf the digestivetract. It also provides the basis for the digestive juices.


… the fluid containing blood cells and nutrients etc. It circulates round the body and carries waste from the tissues.


… to drain tissue and and help maintaining the right balance of body fluid. This is important for defence against diseases.


… to excrete the waste products, and as a vehicle to regulate levels of sodium, potassium and ohter electrolytes as determined by kidney function.


…to supply fluid to aid excretion.


… to regulate the body temperature by transferring excess heat to the surface.


… to get rid of surplus heat as sweat.


… in the form of tears and mucus as a lubricant.


… in the form of „oil“ as a lubricant.


… to make 91%  of the milk of lactating mares.


Horses must have clean, fresh water available in all times. If this is not possible, (for example when travelling) they must be offered some water before they are fed. It is typical for a horse to drink little and often, if possible. Large amounts of water should not be given shortly before or after hard training.


Horses are very fussy about their drinking water. If they feel it is not clean, they will rather go thirsty than „risk“ by drinking it. That may cause problems when travelling – a horse might not want to drink water with unfamiliar taste. Sometimes it helps to add something sweet – a little of molasses or apple juice, for example.

Keep the drinking water always as clean and fresh as possible by checking water bowls regularly, at least once a day.


There are various types of water bowls and watering systems available. The most important part is to consider which would suit your stable and your horses best.

Every type of a water bowl should be large enough for the horse to get his muzzle in without a problem. Also, the bowls, pipes and containers should be kept clean and prevented from freezing.

The right place for a water bowl in a single stable is in a corner. On the floor it can be placed into an old tyre, or, if possible, the bucket could be hanged up and protected with a solid wood piece attached diagonally, to prevent it to be knocked over.  



water always available

less work for stable personal

some horses are afraid of the hissing sound and don’t drink


unable to keep an eye on the amount of water being drunk

difficultier to clean

unsuitable for mares and foals

the system can be damaged by a horse



Possibility to keep an eye on the amount of water being drunk

Suitable for mares and foals once the handles are removed

Some horses prefer buckets


Much work

Can be knocked over by a horse, so they might be left without water for some time


Dehydration is the condition where more water and salts are lost from the body than taken in. The horse has not enough fluid iń his body to maintain normal physiological conditions.

Dehydration can be caused by

-          Lack of drinking

-          Prolonged and marked sweating

-          Diarrhoea (foals!)

-          Heat exhaustion

Dehydration may result in:

-          Reduced performance

-          Muscle damage

-          Colic

-          Reduced kidney function

-          Laminitis

-          Coma

-          Death

-          Azoturia („tying-up“

Signs of dehydration:

-          Skin loses its pliability („the 5 sec. pinch test“)

-          Loss of normal colour from the membraanes of gums and eyes and reduced refill time

-          Lack of eating

-          Listlessness

-          Muscle quiver

-          Pulse becomes small

-          Thick, patchy sweat

-          „Thumps“ – the diafragm contracts in the same rhythm as the heart beat (needs immediately veterinary help)

To think and answer:

-          Why would it be good idea to have the same person checking the water bowls or/and clean the drinkers?

-          How could one prevent the water bowls/drinkers/hoses to freeze in cold weather?

For the practical lessons:

-          The pinch test and Practical watering

2016 – 1 – LV01-KA202 – 022652

This project is funded

by the European Union


A horse is a highly social prey animal, adjusted living in an open space. He needs to eat a little at a time but often, and when living in nature (or just grazing in our paddock) he is constantly moving.

That’s why it is said that a horse needs first “The three F: s” to be fulfilled: Friends, Freedom and Forage.


The herd gives safety, certainty and social bonds. It means that a horse feels that he can safely eat enough, sleep enough, socialize with his friends by playing and investigating the surroundings, grooming, rolling and forming daily routines, and generally live as a horse is meant to live.   


A horse is a prey animal, and his first reaction to an unknown is to flee. He needs his freedom and an open space to do that. That is why horses don’t like small spaces – narrow, shut, low, labyrinthic and so on. Also, that is why they don’t like uneven, soft ground, or sudden changes in goings. Or, that they don’t like they feet to be handled without teaching it to them. A horse needs his feet to keep his life, is what they feel.      


Horse’s digestive system is accustomed to eat little and often. (We talk more about that in the feeding part.) Here it is important to remember that the constant eating is one basic needs for a horse in psychological terms also. The chewing gives him something to do and has a calming effect to a horse. 

2016 – 1 – LV01-KA202 – 022652

This project is funded

by the European Union



Once you get to know your horses well, it gets easier to observe how is he feeling. For more unknown horses you can use the following checkpoints:

In the stable

-       He looks happy and alert, but relaxed (overall well-being)

-       His eyes are bright and nostrils clean, he doesn’t cough (respiratory system)

-       His breathing is regular and steady (respiratory system)

-       He stands evenly on all four legs and has no difficulties to back from the door if asked to do so (posture and movement co-ordination)

-       He is quite still in his stable; no constant walking, pawing, swaying or head-tossing (physical pain, stress)

-       His stable (box) is generally clean – no more disturbed than others, bedding not over- or under-wet, his droppings are normal both in quality and quantity and he drinks normally (colic, kidney function)

-       He eats normally, both off the floor and from the bowl (teeth, back or neck pain)

-       He is happy to lift his limbs and let his feet be picked up (balance, joints)

-       He doesn’t mind touching, blanketing or brushing and his coat is shiny (trust, skin condition)

-       He lies down easily and gets up without difficulties or pauses (the functional mobility of his spine and pelvis, balance)

-       He has occasional rolls and shakes himself after rolling (the functional mobility of his spine and pelvis, balance)

-       He has cool and clean limbs and no visibly cuts (bruises, tendons)

-       When leaded, he walks in and out his stable door willingly but relaxed (coping with restricted areas, body control and body position)

In the field you can also check that

-       He moves evenly and fluently and has three clear paces (lameness, mobility and co-ordination)

-       He mixes well socially with others (social behavior, temperament)

-       He lets willingly himself to be caught (the attitude towards human and work)

The vital signs

A healthy adult horse

-       Has 28-42 heart beats per minute

-       Has body temperature between 37,5 -38,5 C`

-       Breaths 8-12 times per minute

-       Takes little naps while standing up

-       Sleeps deeply for few hours in every 24 hours. That means lying down on his side, so the head and neck are also on the ground

-       His manure should be a pile of roughly spherical shaped droppings. There should be around 10 piles in a day.

2016 – 1 – LV01-KA202 – 022652

This project is funded

by the European Union