10 tips to keep horses drinking while on the road

Presto just made his first 1,000 mile journey from Ohio to Maine and many of you had questions. Here are a few:

“Any tips to keep horses drinking while on the road? And when you get to your destination? I have one that is doesn’t like to drink strange water and sometimes won’t drink for the first day and a half at a new place.”-Mary G

“Hello…my horse wouldn’t drink on last first time long haul. I offered him watermelon cantaloupe and carrots. I am concerned the next time we go but that may not be enough? Do you have any suggestions? Thank you and safe travels.”-Deborah B.

This was a popular question…and for good reason. Horses that don’t drink are at a higher risk for colic. Here are some of the things I did to keep Presto drinking on the road.

1- I know Presto’s normal water intake. I know that his intake changes as the weather changes.

2- I’ve practiced hauling Presto short distances, less than an hour, many times. Some of these have included hauling to a friend’s house to ride. I offered him water when tied to the side of the trailer after his workout.
While horses don’t often want to drink during short-distance hauling, they do practice the skill of hauling which reduces their stress. Horses that are better prepared tend to eat and drink better.

3- I feed an electrolyte during hot weather, hard work or when preparing for a trip. I prefer a pelleted electrolyte that they eat like grain over adding the electrolyte to the water. The electrolyte I use is made by Equithrive and I use it both at home and on the road. If you do add something to the water…be sure to also offer plain water in case they are put off by the flavoring.

4- I offer water by dropping the front windows and letting them stick their heads out. This is also a skill horses need to learn if you’re going to use this technique.

5- I begin offering water about three hours into the travel. Sometimes earlier if the weather is hot…but rarely do my horses drink until the 4-5 hour mark.

6-If I grain before hauling I wait a minimum of one hour before leaving. While hauling I don’t grain until the water intake is normal. I offer free choice hay during the entire trip.

7- If you are going to ‘flavor’ the water with something (molasses, apple juice, etc) do it at home to practice. Confirm and know what works BEFORE you try it on the road.

8-Still not drinking? I begin feeding all feed wet. Wet hay, wet alfalfa cubes…if you do a mash, do that…still no grain.

9-I don’t personally haul water from home when traveling, but if I had a horse that was extremely picky during travel I would. Especially during the early training it could eliminate one of the variables.
The only reason I don’t is because I haul short trips that also involve overnights with ‘new’ water so my horses become seasoned to this change early.

10- when you unload, offer water, if they don’t drink…get them moving. I often find that a little light lunging, hand walking or turnout will often stimulate the horses to want to drink. This isn’t a regular or hard workout, it is an opportunity to stretch the body, get the blood flowing and oxygen moving. Light lunging will also help many horses ‘settle’ and relax a little…and those horses tend to drink more.

Even with all of this, I wasn’t crazy about Presto’s water intake. However, all the horses were a little light on drinking. When all three horses have a similar change like this I’m more inclined to look at the weather. Before I left Ohio the weather was in the 80’s and dry. The day I started hauling it was in the low 70’s and very pleasant.
This made for great hauling weather but even at home I know the water intake would have been lower.

Once I arrived I knew I wouldn’t feel completely comfortable until the water intake was back at the normal level. Thankfully, all three horses drank a normal amount before I went to bed…but I still waited to see the intake by morning before graining.

It will be interesting to see how Presto does as I haul around Maine and when we head on another 1,000 mile trip back to Ohio later in the month. Please post any questions you have about hauling in the comments and I’ll work to answer them in upcoming posts!

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