Hydration is the key to preventing cold-weather colic in horses. There is a proven connection between reduced water intake and increased incidence of impaction colic. Here are a few tips to ensure your horse keeps drinking this winter:
• Keep buckets and troughs ice-free. Of course you know that a frozen-solid water source is a bad thing, but don’t assume your horse will break through a thin layer of ice or be willing to drink water that contains chunks of ice; many horses won’t do either. Invest in a heated bucket or immersible heater to ensure your horse’s water temperature stays above freezing.
• Check all automated waterers daily. Frozen lines, electric short circuits or simple mechanical failure can cause an automatic waterer to run dry, and you may not notice until your horse is dangerously dehydrated. Even though you aren’t dumping and filling buckets, make it a habit to check the function of every automatic waterer on your property every day.
• Mix up some mashes. A warm, wet, soupy mash is an easy way to get some extra water into a horse. Skip the traditional bran, however---its sudden appearance in your horse’s diet can lead to colic. Instead, wet your horse’s usual feed with enough hot water to soften it into a moist mash-like consistency. Feed it once it has cooled slightly but well before it begins to freeze. If your horse isn’t sensitive to sugars, you can add a dollop of applesauce for an extra treat.
This article was originally published the February 2016 issue, Volume #473 of EQUUS magazine