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How To Find Safe Drinking Water For Your Horse

If you’ve ever taken your horse out on the road, you may have noticed that they can be very picky about their water. Horses use their sense of smell to determine if water may be contaminated, stagnant, or even just doesn’t taste like home. Even with a nose for clean water, though, your horse can still be affected by waterborne pathogens and parasites.

Well Water Safety
If your barn uses well water, it’s likely a clean, safe source of water for your horse’s tank. It is possible for well water to get contaminated by runoff from fields that contain pesticides, manure piles, or septic tank.
You should have your well water tested annually, as well as any time you notice signs of potential contamination including unusual odor, color, or if your horse suddenly refuses to drink it.
Well water has a higher mineral content than tap water, giving it a distinct taste. A horse that normally drinks well water may suffer an upset stomach if they drink tap water, or may refuse to drink tap water at all. The opposite is also true, so if you travel with your horse, consider bringing water from home or using flavorful additives like apple juice to encourage them to stay hydrated.

Safe Natural Water Sources
Your horse can also drink from safe water sources in the pasture or on the trail. Not all natural water sources are safe, though.
Avoid any natural water sources with visible blue-green algae. Algae can produce cyanotoxins, which can be fatal to horses if consumed. Algae can look like a layer of paint floating on the surface of the water, or it may make the water look murky.
Moving streams are safer than stagnant ponds, but can still be contaminated by the wildlife that drink from them. Wild animals that swim, drink from, and defecate near a body of water may leave behind harmful pathogens like leptospira, salmonella, listeria, and E.coli, as well as parasites that cause EPM.

Purifying Your Horse’s Water
You can use water purifying tablets to make water from natural sources safer. There are also specialized tablets for use in water tanks and troughs. You can also purify water with ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon of bleach per gallon, then wait at least an hour for the chlorine to dissipate before allowing your horse to drink.
Whether your horse drinks from unknown water sources or not, it’s always a good idea to deworm regularly, as they can pick up parasites from water or from the soil when they’re grazing.