Why won't my horse drink when we're at a competition?


Does your horse refuse to drink when you're away from the yard? Are you concerned about dehydration? Equine nutrition expert from Spillers, Clare Barfoot, explains what you can do.

Q: My horse doesn't drink when I take him out competing and I'm worried he'll become dehydrated. Why does he refuse to drink and how can I change this? 

A: This is a common issue that I get asked about a lot.

Some of the reasons he's not drinking could be that he may not need to drink, the water may taste different to home, or the lack of electrolytes may not be prompting his thirst response.

I wouldn't be too worried if you're only travelling short distances and the weather isn't too warm and your horse doesn't show any signs of dehydration - such as skin that doesn't bounce back when it's pinched. 

How to encourage your horse to drink:

  • For horses in light work, supply a salt lick or for those in heavier work or sweating regularly, add one to two tablespoons of table salt or a specialist daily electrolyte into the feed
  • Consider training your horse to drink flavoured water at home to help mask any change in taste when you get to a show. You can flavour the water with molassed sugar beet or apple juice if you're competing in unaffiliated competitions
  • Other tactics to help keep your horse hydrated are allowing him to munch on some grass or feeding sloppy sugar beet in their feed. You must make sure they're used to it as introducing something new to his diet could cause a digestive upset