Every day horses are meant to consume one gallon for every 50kgs of body weight they have. This may vary slightly but it is a good estimation of how much your horse should be drinking and a marker for tracking if they are not drinking enough.
Even if your horse is not working, it is important for the horse to be well hydrated. There are times when horses may drink less water such as during the winter months or while travelling given the associated stress. However, not drinking can be an indication of a more serious problem. Horses that have been exhausted, become ill or are already severely dehydrated tend to stop drinking. Call in a vet to be sure that illness is not the culprit and then you can investigate further.
Common reasons your horse may be refusing to drink
Because horses in the wild are most exposed when they visit the watering hole, the smallest noise is enough to make them run. This means that horses are naturally on edge while drinking. Automatic drinkers are intended to save labour but they can frighten skittish horses with the sounds the mechanisms make while refilling. You will have to revert to giving the horse water manually if you notice their drinking vessel is still full in the morning after the horse has been alone in the stable all night.
Horses will instinctively avoid water buckets that seem to smell strange. Make sure the vessel and the water it contains are clean. Use a strong salt solution to thoroughly clean the vessel and do not use the vessel for anything but water so that you avoid the same problem in the future.
You may even need to use the same vessel while travelling to prevent your horse from dehydrating; a foreign vessel may put the horse off drinking. Even increased fluoride content in the water can cause a horse not to drink. If you are struggling to get a fussy horse to drink, you can place a salt block in its stable which may trigger a thirst strong enough to make the horse drink.
ReCharge for severe dehydration
If your horse has gone too long without drinking water, it will continue to refuse to drink and further action needs to be taken which can take the form of equine supplements. ReCharge is a horse supplement that is used to restore minerals and electrolytes lost during cases of dehydration. It is accepted easily by most horses and will restore sodium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, magnesium and glucose levels back to normal.
Before it gets worse, seek veterinary advice if your horse has noticeably refused water despite your efforts to rectify the problem.