Why does my horse drink dirty water?

Does your horse drink dirty water? Here's equine nutritionist Clare Barfoot who explains what you can do to make him stop.

Q: Recently I've noticed my horse is drinking from dirty stagnant water on the ground even though he has clean buckets available. He's still drinking clean water, too. Should I be worried? 

A: I assume your horse isn't showing any signs of ill health, so I'd certainly recommend finding a way to stop him drinking stagnant water in the future.

Depending on the source of the water, this may of course mean turning out in a different field or fencing off access to ponds or areas prone to flooding/collecting water.

If he's turned out in a group, it may be worth keeping an eye out for signs of bullying to ensure that more dominant members are allowing him access to the water trough.

Drinking stagnant water may lead to loose droppings, diarrhea or colic and, in more serious cases, can be poisonous.

Excessive growth of bacteria and algae in stagnant water produce toxins, which may affect the liver or respiratory tract and potentially can be fatal to livestock, wildlife and domestic pets (they can also cause skin rashes in humans and illness if swallowed). 

Although not all algae are poisonous, it's impossible to tell by looking at them so the safest option is to only allow access to clean fresh water.