First of all, I would get the horse used to drinking out of a bucket so he can get used to it and be familiar with it. Now the trick is to spike his water with apple juice or whatever he likes, to make it taste and smell good. All this is done at home in the weeks or days before you go on the road. Also if the weather is really cold, make sure his water is kind of warm; horses don't like drinking cold water during the winter weather.
When we took Skyler to his first away show, he took one sniff of the unfamiliar water and went on strike! We tried mixing molasses with water in one bucket, half water half apple juice in another, floated apples and carrots in one and even went to a grocery store and bought 20 gallons of spring water! Nothing convinced him to drink. We had the show vet evaluate him for dehydration and gut sounds, and she checked him often during the four days. Skyler sipped just enough to avoid being tubed (to administer a big drink of water), and we got home safely.
After talking to almost everyone we know, we came up with a solution (pun intended). Thanks to a tip from friend Aaron Reed (of Rockridge Farm Horse Transportation), we now start a week ahead of the trip by gradually adding up to a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to his bucket of water at home. Then, when we get to the show, we continue with the vinegar and, because of the familiar smell and faint horse-pleasing taste, Skyler dives in and drinks like at home. Apple cider vinegar is readily available and inexpensive--we never leave home without it!
Linda and Emily McDonald
Walnut Creek, Calif.
We have had good luck in unfamiliar surroundings by using orange-flavored Gatorade powder. We introduce it a week before a show by adding it to our horses' water tank--just enough to flavor it, not as we might drink it. At the show we add a little more than at home. It also has the benefit of electrolytes. The horses love it and forget about the strange water.
Agoura Hills, Calif.
About two weeks before we leave for a trip, I start adding Kool-Aid® to my horse's water. The flavor disguises the taste of the water. I use one flavor in the water at home, then bring that same flavor with us on the road. When I add it to the new, unfamiliar water, my horse drinks it right up!
When I'm away from home, I put hay in a bucket and fill it with the new water. Then my horse will get the taste of the new water while she is eating. I also put the new water in a bottle and squeeze it into my hand and have her drink from my hand so she can taste the new water.
La Pine, Ore.
For more great solutions on how to get your horse to drink unfamiliar water when he's away from home, read the May 2008 issue of Practical Horseman magazine. Share your own tips in the Practical Horseman forum.
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