On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Can hot horses drink cold water?
It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Can hot horses drink cold water? Will it make them colic? Can it put a horse into shock? Read further to find out!
Myth: Hot horses shouldn’t drink cold water
Myth or Fact: Myth
After a long, hot day of competing or trail riding on a hot summer afternoon, you may want to fill up your horse’s water buckets with fresh cold water from the hose; however, it’s second nature for some to immediately pull food and water from the stall. It’s on these days that you may hear the myth that you shouldn’t give a hot horse cold water because their stomach will hyper-distend leading to colic.
According to an article by Equimed, there are no health risks associated with letting your horse drink cold water and there’s no amount that’s “too much.” A horse’s stomach can hold between two to four gallons of fluid without becoming distended.
Equus Magazine writes that the myth that cold water can’t be given to a hot horse is not only incorrect but also potentially dangerous. They state that this myth can cause a horse to become overheated and dehydrated. The history behind this myth is because people who overworked their horses in heat found their horses to colic, cramp, or develop laminitis. People started to connect these issues with the cold drinking water when the issue was actually the overwork.
Downunder Horsemanship also sheds light on this myth. They state that the myth originated from the Thoroughbred industry because many trainers instruct their hot walkers to only allow small amounts of warmer water while they’re cooling down a horse. Downunder Horsemanship states that the temperature of water won’t hurt a horse because they only consume what their stomachs can hold. This is due to a reflex controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain. We should trust our horses when they go to drink water despite the temperature.
Downunder Horsemanship went on to write that horses should be allowed to drink cold water until they feel satisfied. This is because dehydration can cause a horse to colic or overheat. Studies show that endurance horses who are offered cold water frequently during their rides have no stomach cramps. Studies have also demonstrated that horses will not drink beyond their stomach capacity following intense exercise, so there is no need to wait to offer your horse water until he’s “cooled off.”
Horse and Hound also published an article to debunk this myth. They state that while there is no harm in giving a hot horse cold water. However, studies have shown that hot horses are more likely to drink water that is slightly warmer. That said, horses that are out hunting drink, without issue, from cold streams.
Succeed Equine states in their article that this myth persists due to people making the wrong decision as to why their hot horses colic. While hot horses should be managed carefully and cooled quickly, withholding water causes more damage than good. When a horse is working in high heat they can lose as much as two to three gallons of sweat per hour. For this reason, it’s important for horses to have constant access to water especially when recovering from exercise.
Horses are sufficient at self-regulating. As their temperature increases, they drink more to combat dehydration. Horses should be allowed to drink whenever possible despite the temperature of the water. Short breaks where water is offered should be taken during riding to manage hot horses in heavy work.
After diving into the research, hot horses should be offered water, no matter the temperature. There is no scientific evidence showing that cold water will harm a hot horse. Horses are fantastic self-regulators and will only consume as much as they need. There are more risks associated with holding water from a hot horse than there is from giving a hot horse cold water.
Do you have an equine myth you’d like us to tackle? If so, send it our way! Email your suggestions to [email protected]. Put Mythbuster Monday in your subject line.