Basic Feeding Of Horses – Water

Most people don’t “think” about feeding water – they just do it.  Water, along with air, is more important than food as removing either will bring death within a minute to a few days.  This is because water is made of 2 elements – Hydrogen (H) and Oxygen (O) – which are used in every chemical and chemical reaction in the body.  All sugar and all fat are made with H and O with the addition of only 1 more element – Carbon (C).  Humans are about 70% water and water is found in every living cell.

Proteins make up almost every part of our bodies and are built with molecules called amino acids.  They too are made of C, H and O plus 1 more element – Nitrogen (N). This last element makes up 78% of the air we breathe.  Surprised it isn’t oxygen?  Now you see why air is so important.  But what makes water so important is that H atoms gain and lose electrons easily which drives almost every chemical reaction in the body.  The most important of which is within the mitochondria within the cells creating energy.  Without water this does not occur.

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Most people don’t “think” about feeding water – they just do it.  Water, along with air, is more important than food as removing either will bring death within a minute to a few days.  This is because water is made of 2 elements – Hydrogen (H) and Oxygen (O) – which are used in every chemical and chemical reaction in the body.  All sugar and all fat are made with H and O with the addition of only 1 more element – Carbon (C).  Humans are about 70% water and water is found in every living cell.

Proteins make up almost every part of our bodies and are built with molecules called amino acids.  They too are made of C, H and O plus 1 more element – Nitrogen (N). This last element makes up 78% of the air we breathe.  Surprised it isn’t oxygen?  Now you see why air is so important.  But what makes water so important is that H atoms gain and lose electrons easily which drives almost every chemical reaction in the body.  The most important of which is within the mitochondria within the cells creating energy.  Without water this does not occur.

We all know that water can exist in 3 forms: ice, liquid and steam depending on the temperature.  Recently, a 4th form of water has been discovered called “exclusion zone” water, commonly called “EZ water.”  This is found within the Kreb’s cycle of energy formation in the mitochondria and is more viscous, somewhere between liquid and frozen, with the consistency of honey.  

Water pumped from the ground is also filled with minerals needed to replace lost minerals and should be considered the primary source of mineral supplementation along with consuming ground plants.

I have been to barns where water buckets are cleaned daily and fresh water added throughout the day.  I have been to farms where the opposite is true with the water troughs are filled with algae and scum.  I have been to farms where the water is filtered and to farms where it is heated in the winter.  I have been to farms where the only water is from streams and ponds that freeze in winter.  All farms always give access to water and in almost half a century I have not seen a problem from any of these methods used.  This said, I prefer clean water and consider this a sign of the overall care provided for the horses on the farm.  However I have not seen horses suffer when given water in poor conditions and in fact, there are farms where the horses prefer the algae filled water trough with fish swimming in it.

The most important part of making water available is the consumption of water.  Heating water in winter months always increases water consumption and therefore improves hydration.  Hydration maintains all body functions and the kidneys regulate hydration.  For example, bears during hibernation do not drink nor do they urinate.  Whales actually store water in their fat as they do not drink the sea water surrounding them.  Horses limit their intake of water in winter but maintain their hydration through a hormonal process involving the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the kidney.  This can be affected by the same dysfunction causing Cushing’s disease and is called diabetes mellitus.  This is when the horse can no longer concentrate their urine producing large amounts of water-like urine and subsequently increasing their water consumption to 5 or more buckets a day. 

Offering water is a binary decision. If you don’t make water available the horse will die.  Simple!  But offering water seems to take many forms and changes with the seasons and the horse adapts to this effectively.  Water is essential to life and therefore horses have developed mechanisms to maintain what they have and get what they need.  Offering clean and fresh water still remains a reflection of the overall care of the horse but as long as free access to water is available, neglect cannot be considered.  One more thing – dead mice, rats and birds left in water troughs and buckets are, in my opinion, not an option for maintaining health and are signs of poor horse care.

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Responses

  1. Water at least 50% in volume and 300% in weight when compared every other element we feed our horse…yet few give it second thought, test for trace minerals or toxins that cause laminitis and colic like fluoride. Good topic.

    1. Water is essential and often overlooked. I am unaware of trace minerals (or lack of) or toxins in water causing laminitis. Many here in FL used carbon filters for the poor quality water. One of the basics of water is to use a clean bucket. Some buckets I see I would not drink out of. Also heated water in the very cold weather helps to increase water consumption.

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