Safe Drinking Water for Horses

Would you drink from your horse’s water source? If not, your horse may not want to either.

Natural water sources, such as ponds and lakes, can provide horses with suitable water. They can also, however, collect harmful chemicals from runoff. Agricultural chemicals and other environmental contaminants can cause blue-green algae to bloom in the water. These organisms produce cyanotoxins, which are extremely dangerous for horses. Not all algae produce harmful chemicals, but blooms are indicators of unhealthy or stagnant water.

If the pond or stream in your horse’s pasture is free from chemicals and closely monitored for contamination, the water is more than likely potable. Nonetheless, purity is not guaranteed.

To avoid potential problems with natural water sources, it is best to provide additional water in a bucket or trough. Horses are selective consumers; most will instinctively drink from the safest water source.

Man-made water sources are not free of issues; they require consistent maintenance. If the water in a trough appears green or murky, it needs to be dumped and replaced. When changing the water, it may be necessary to remove algae by more vigorous means than rinsing alone. Stiff brushes and apple cider vinegar are two safe tools for removing algae and discouraging regrowth.

Because horses are choosy drinkers, it is wise to give them choices. Not all natural water sources are problematic, and not all artificially provided water is safe. Keeping a careful watch over the water your horses are drinking will allow you to detect contamination issues before they cause illness, dehydration, or colic.