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Home > Horses > How to Get a Horse to Drink Water: 7 Vet-Reviewed Easy Steps

How to Get a Horse to Drink Water: 7 Vet-Reviewed Easy Steps

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Dr. Lauren Demos

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There is an old saying that says you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. There is some truth to this saying. Even when you have what seems like ample amounts of water on hand, sometimes horses just refuse to drink it. However, there are ways to get a horse to drink, so the saying is not entirely true. Many horses can be convinced to start drinking again with a few simple changes to the water itself. Here is how you can get a horse to drink water in seven easy steps.



In order to help get your horse to start drinking again, you will need a few things. It is best to gather these things upfront so that you have them on hand. Some critical things you will need include access to clean and fresh water, flavoring, and a clean bucket.

What You Will Need

  • A source of fresh water
  • Electrolyte powder
  • Flavoring
  • A way to warm your water (for cold environments)
  • A clean bucket
  • A way to dump and clean your trough

new horse shoe divider

The 7 Steps To Get Your Horse To Drink More Water

1. Make Sure the Water Is Fresh and Clean

Some horses are picky about the quality of their water. One of the first things to check is the quality of your horse’s water. If the water is green, has algae, grass, bugs, or old food in it, your horse might not want to drink. Make sure you change your horse’s water regularly in order to help get them to drink.

Many horses drop food into their water by accident. This can be chewed grass or grain, and it will sink to the bottom of the water bucket or trough and cause the water to turn cloudy, brown, or green. Some horses will see this discoloration and refuse to drink it.

2. Put Water in a Safe, Accessible Area

Two horses drinking water
Image By: Jumpstory

Sometimes you think that your horse’s trough or bucket is in a safe area, but it could be in a spot that scares your horse. Many things can spook horses, from a vine to a butterfly or even a lean-to or run-in. If you have your water under a shelter and your horse is avoiding drinking, they could feel afraid.

If you feel like your horse is avoiding its water source, you should try to move it. Put the water in an open, accessible area that is free of any obstructions or overhanging plants or structures. This will make the area around the water more enticing for anxious horses. Do be aware that putting the water in a sunny open area will make it more conducive to growing algae, so keeping the water in the open and keeping it fresh go hand in hand.

It should go without saying, but your horse should always have access to water. If your horse drinks its water dry in the morning, you have to make sure to refill it as soon as possible.

3. Bring Water from Your Home Trough When Traveling

Many horse owners find that their horses refuse to drink when they are traveling. Sometimes this is just because of nerves, but other times it could be that the horse does not like the look or smell of new water. One way to get your horse to drink when they are on the road is to bring water from your home, the water they are familiar with. Horses need 6 to 10 gallons of water per day (and maybe more for large horses or in hot environments). If you are traveling with one horse for 3 days, you should bring 30 gallons of water. Bringing water from home can be a hassle, but having a horse colic when you are out on a trip can be an even bigger hassle.

4. Add Flavor to the Water

Horse drinking water
Image Credit: Jumpstory

Another way to help entice horses to drink is to add flavor to the water. This can be done in a number of different ways. Horses like a number of different flavors, including sugar, peppermint, and molasses. If your horse has a specific flavored treat that they enjoy more than others, you should target that flavor to add to the water.

Some things that you can add to your horse’s water to help get them to drink include sports drink powder, apple juice, beet juice, molasses, or peppermint candies. Peppermint candies dissolve in water and will add some needed flavor. Any one of these flavors could help your horse drink. Do not add too much flavor to the water; just enough to get some taste. This trick works best when you water your horse from a bucket. And, if adding flavored water, ensure your horse has at least one source that remains unflavored.

5. Add Electrolytes to the Water

You don’t always have to add flavor to water to get your horse to drink. You can also add some simple electrolytes. You can buy electrolyte powder specially formulated for horses at your local feed or equine store. Add the recommended amount. Usually, it is a certain amount per bucket or per gallon. The electrolytes could be enough to entice your horse to start drinking and continue to drink.

6. Add Water to Their Food If They Still Won’t Drink

horse eating
Image Credit: hortensia, Pixabay

If your horse is still refusing to drink, one thing you can do to get them some much needed hydration is to soak their food. You can soak grain, pellets, and even hay in water. Soaking food will make it softer. This trick works especially well for food motivated horses. Food soaked in water will help get water into your horse’s system. If a horse is dehydrated, getting any amount of water into them can be a big help.

7. Try Warming the Water (For Winter)

In the winter, some horses will not drink if they think that their water is too cold. To be fair, water that is just above freezing can be unpleasant. In these situations, you might want to try and warm your horse’s water. Drawing water from a warm tap and putting it in a bucket is the best way to do this. Try not to boil the water to warm it up because you could make it too hot, which will only exacerbate the problem. This tip is especially relevant during cold winters or in northern climates where outdoor water frequently freezes. Or, get a submersible heater or pump to help keep the water from freezing.

new horse shoe divider

What Happens If Horses Become Dehydrated?

Dehydration can be extremely dangerous for horses. Horses that get dehydrated can get stuck in a negative feedback loop where they start to feel lousy, then they don’t want to eat or drink, and then they start to feel worse. Dehydration can lead to impactions (where dry food or hay gets stuck in the intestines) or colic. Both of these conditions can quickly become dangerous and can result in the death of the horse.

It is imperative that you make sure that your horse is drinking regularly and consistently. It is also important to ensure that your horse always has water easily available.

If you suspect that your horse is dehydrated or has gone without water for some time, you should call your veterinarian so that you can get them appropriate treatment. A horse can easily get rehydrated with some help from a veterinarian. However, you will still need to ensure they keep drinking after the vet sets them right.

vet and horse_Shutterstock_lgctr
Image Credit: lgctr, Shutterstock



It can be frustrating and scary when your horse refuses to drink. Dehydration can be fatal to horses. The good news is that there are a number of different tips and tricks to help get your horse to start drinking. In many cases, a little flavor or some fresh water will be enough to get them to start drinking again.

Featured Image Credit: rihaij, Pixabay

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