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Katherine Blocksdorf

Can a Horse Survive by Eating Snow in Winter?

By December 28, 2010

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A question many people ask is 'can a horse survive by eating snow in the winter'. The answer is 'maybe'. A horse might be able to eat snow and get enough moisture to survive, but it certainly won't be getting enough moisture to thrive. If you melt down a bucket of snow, you'll find there is only a small fraction of (dirty) water, compared to the amount of snow you started with. Your horse would have to eat an incredible amount of snow just to get one bucket of water. Combine low fluid intake with a diet of dry fodder like hay and it could be the perfect recipe for impaction colic.
Photo: 2007 K. Blocksdorf
And if you've ever eaten ice cream or other frozen treat on a cold day, you know what that can do to your body temperature. The same thing can happen to horses forced to eat snow. Horses have a very efficient internal furnace that keeps them warm in all but the coldest, windiest and wettest weather. But that internal heating system can be jeopardized by poor diet, and that includes not enough fluid to properly digest what they have eaten.

I know it can be difficult to provide horses fresh water when buckets seem to freeze as soon as you put them out. But access to water is essential to help your horse cope with cold winter temperatures and remain healthy. Heated buckets, stock tank heaters and even hot water from the kitchen tap are all solutions to preventing water from freezing and ensuring your horse doesn't have to eat snow for moisture.

Read More About Winter Horse Care


December 29, 2010 at 3:24 am
(1) Judith Keene says:

There is absolutely no reason why any horse should have to eat snow for water, except laziness of its owner. The first year i had horses i had to hook up a hose in my basement and run it out to their tank. i had to break out the ice every morning and refill it with fresh water but at least i knew they had plenty. Now i have an all weather hydrant with a stock tank with a heater in it. I use water from that tank to fill their stall buckets and they never have frozen water. It doesnt take much to run an electric line to put a plug in near the water tank to plug in a tank heater to.

February 13, 2013 at 5:35 pm
(2) Tina Tischer says:

My mare is driving me crazy! She is obsessed with eating snow. So much that when I ride her she has her head down licking snow the entire time. I have a 150 gallon tub full of water with a heater in it and she drinks the whole thing once a week. Would this be signs of cushings or a type of diabetic horse?

February 15, 2013 at 9:46 am
(3) Katherine says:

Hi Tina, there could be a few reasons why your mare is eating snow. She could be doing it to entertain herself and satisfy the need to graze. Horses don’t get a lot of grazing time this time of year. A slow feeder might keep her eating hay for a longer period of time. One thing that may not be obvious is ‘tingle voltage’ that might be keeping your horse away from her trough. I’ve posted a bit about tingle voltage in today’s blog.

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