Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

Fall is a great time to review your watering system for your horse and think about how it will work for you and your horse over the coming winter.
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Photo: Alayne Blickle

Fall is a great time to review your watering system for your horse and think about how it will work for you and your horse over the coming winter. Any changes that need to be made can still be done now before the ground is too frozen for digging or making changes. Read on for a few ideas on how to set up and manage winter water supplies for horses.

A horse drinks 8 to 12 gallons of water per day. Research shows horses prefer water temperatures of about 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit and tend to drink less when water is cold. Keep in mind that research also tells us that a horse cannot get enough moisture by eating snow alone. Decreased water consumption can lead to colic so make every effort to ensure your horses are drinking an adequate amount. Avoid a frozen water supply by insulating pipes and faucets with heat tape or other insulation materials–check with your local hardware store for recommendations. If you use a hose, find a way to drain it each night so it doesn’t freeze.

The simplest, low-tech way is on very cold days break ice in water tanks in the morning and again in the evenings. Be sure to remove the ice after breaking it so it doesn’t refreeze quickly. You can clear ice with a pool skimmer or a manure fork designated just for that purpose. If you only have one or two horses this method isn’t too taxing. A reminder: older horses or those with dental problems may not be able to drink very cold water and may require additional warming of their water. In these cases you can warm water in their stall bucket with some hot water from your teakettle each morning and night.

A non-electrical option is an insulated bucket with a lid. These options still require daily filling with a hose, but horses easily learn to push on the lid to get a drink. | Photo: Alayne Blickle

The next option, if you have access to electricity, is to consider getting a stock tank heater or heated stall bucket. Many nice options are available, including heated muck buckets, which you can research on the Internet or at your local feed store. Just make sure that you don’t use an electric heater with a plastic tank, or that you don’t have a curious gelding that’ll go bobbing for tank heaters

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

8 Responses

  1. re: Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

    I break ice often in pasture troughs with a tire iron and scoop out the ice with a metal, mesh strainer with handle (cheap in kitchen section at Walmart).  We are fortunate to have hot water available in the barn and I tested the faucet setting wi

  2. re: Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

    Great article, but I do have some concerns about the "low tech" way of breaking the ice on the water bucket as a way of handling this.  In many climates and during many winters, the water can freeze again in an hour or less, so the &quot

  3. re: Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

    Thank you for the informative article about various water supplying systems. The automatic water supply sounds the coolest, since it helps prevent stagnant water and provides efficiencies! Animal bedding can have efficiency and health gains depending o

  4. re: Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

    Hi Alayne,

    Would it be possible to post some pictures of your watering system?

    I recently had to replace water lines on my property, so I buried it (5 ft down- below the frost line), inside Big "O" tubing and brought it up into

  5. re: Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

    Here in Florida, winter is the only time that chores are pleasant and fun!  

  6. re: Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

    Searching for keeping water ice free without electricity.

    Where do I find the insulated bucket with lid pictured above?

    Would also like more info. on Marc’s suggestion involving a solar panel. Where would I find this type of set-up to pur

  7. re: Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

    Another option if you do not have access to an electrical circuit is to utilize a solar panel and battery to power a small thermostatically controlled heating element in a stock waterer.  

  8. re: Chore-Efficient Winter Water Supply Ideas

    I also use automatic waterers that are insulated and work on geothermal principles. The surface of the water will still freeze when it is really cold. I use a small hammer to break the ice and a cat litter scoop to remove it. Takes two minutes per wate

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