> Horse Articles >

Water and Shelter

A lack of clean water or adequate shelter can seriously affect a horse’s health and wellbeing. Without water, horses can dehydrate and can become seriously or fatally ill, depending on the length of time elapsed. Without shelter, hot sun, rain, and other elements can be very unpleasant and may cause discomfort and even skin diseases. Whichever form of water supply or shelter you use, it must supply all the horses in the field. It must be laid out so that there is no possibility of a horse being trapped behind the shelter. Any unclean or polluted water sources must be fenced off for the safety of the horses.


A clean, running stream is an ideal water source if the banks allow easy access for the horse. The stream must have a gravel bottom; if it is sandy, the horse may take in sand with the water which can cause colic. A pond may be a suitable water source if it is fed by a spring, or is large enough to remain clear. Stagnant ponds and drainage ditches are unacceptable and must not be used. Water troughs should be constructed of nonferrous metal that will not rust. Ideally, the trough should be fed by water on a demand valve. Flush and scrub it out occasionally to keep the water clean and fresh. It should be sited where the drainage is good so that the surrounding area does not become muddy, and is not located under a tree where leaves will fall in it. If you use a bucket as a water source, use one without a handle so that the horse cannot get its foot trapped in it. Stand the bucket inside a tire so that it cannot be kicked over. Buckets must be checked and refilled at least twice a day. At least twice daily during the winter, make sure that the water supply has not frozen. This should involve more than simply breaking the ice. The feeder valve of a trough and the supply pipe can freeze. If this happens, you must provide a different water source.


Horses use each other as shelter from the weather by standing together. They often stand head to tail and use their tails to swat flies away from the other’s head. A horse on its own will usually point its hindquarters to the wind; it does so because that area of the body has large muscle masses with a generous blood supply so it stays warm more easily.

A tree or hedge can provide shelter in the summer and winter. Trees provide shade from the sun, and hedges help block gusts of wind. A shed is an ideal type of shelter and a horse will use it when it feels it is necessary. If the floor gets muddy, put down some straw or another type of bedding. A large shed in a field can shelter a number of horses together and continue their social interaction under cover. The main goal is to provide shelter from the hot sun in the summer while allowing any cooling breeze to flow through. It will also give protection from wind and rain or snow in the winter. The shed must have enough room for all the horses in the field.

Please Note: These are suggestions. If you have any questions, please contact your veterinarian or local horse professional.

Horse Articles Index
Like this article? Share it!  

  • Published: