When temperatures drop below freezing, keeping fresh thawed water available to horses becomes much more difficult. But just because it’s cold and snowy outside doesn’t meant that your horse’s water requirements decrease. He still needs plenty of water to wash down the extra hay and forage he’s eating to stay warm.

So how do you keep thawed water available to horses when the temperatures take a dive? We posed this question to our readers in last week’s online poll. More than 800 people responded, and we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 838 respondents, 290 (35%) said they use a stock tank or trough with a heating element to keep water unfrozen, while 209 respondents (25%) said they use heated water buckets. Another 137 people (16%) utilize automatic waterers to keep thawed water available for their horses, and 124 individuals (15%) said they break ice in their horses’ buckets. The remaining 78 respondents (9%) used other methods to keep water available to their horses.

Photo: TheHorse.com

Additionally, more than 90 people commented about their winter watering methods:

Several people commented that they use heated buckets or a stock tank or trough with a heater:

  • “Tank heater has been very dependable, long-lasting, and safe.”
  • “It’s normal in January for the temp to be 20F to -10F. High-watt floating tank heaters are a must.”
  • “I use a 100-gallon tank with heater for two horses.”
  • “We also use heated water buckets in stalls.”
  • “All my buckets have heaters, and my electric bill kills me, but they have water.”
  • “I also use heated buckets when they’re stalled during snow storms.”
  • “I can’t live without heated tubs, and heated buckets! A necessity!”
  • “Heated bucket in stall at night, tank heater during day”
  • “Heated buckets in the stalls and tank heaters outside.”
  • “I use heated water buckets, a stock tank with the appropriate heater, and break ice in other troughs.”

Many others said they add warm water to their horses’ buckets and troughs:

  • “We carry buckets of warm water from the sink in the tack room to the horses five times a day!”
  • “I heat two 5-gallon pails of water with bucket heater and mix with cold water from the hydrant.”
  • “I pour warm water into the buckets then go break the ice after it has frozen and replace frequently.”
  • “We haul warm water to the barn and turnouts.”
  • “Keep warmed water in two buckets available and refilled four times a day!”
  • “I add mostly warm water to the water buckets.”
  • “I fill their buckets twice a day with warm water.”
  • “I carry warm water to them.”
  • “Every time I go out I take a bucket of hot water to add.”
  • “Add warm water to buckets a.m. and p.m.”

Some people said they break ice in their horses’ buckets and troughs:

  • “We frequently break and thaw ice from buckets and replace with fresh water during frigid days.”
  • “Two to three times daily, I break ice in tanks and scoop it out, then top off. Removing ice chunks delays refreezing.”
  • “Break ice in larger tanks, too many for buckets.”
  • “I break ice, remove it, then add hot water to bucket to mix with cold water.”

A few said their horses have access to natural water sources:

  • “We break ice on creek so they can drink”
  • “The have controlled access to a pond. We break the ice from the edge towards the middle.”
  • “I have a creek on my property.”

While others shared additional methods they use to keep thawed water available:

  • “I pipe continuously-running water from a free-flowing natural spring to a stock tank.”
  • “I am using an insulated bucket. Still gets a little ice but not much.”
  • “In stalls, we built insulated bucket holders. They been working well for near 30 years.”
  • “I insulate my buckets and fill with warm water.”
  • “I have a 60-gallon tub within insulated box. Opening is lined with thick inner tube. Break as needed.”
  • “I slow water flow to the tank and then rig floats to let tanks run over.”
  • “I do not have electricity, so I just keep the water running enough so nothing freezes up.”
  • “I use 2-liter soda bottles filled with salt water in the water troughs. Keeps them from freezing.”

Some said frozen water was not an issue where they live:

  • “Generally, ice is not a problem in Phoenix, Arizona.”
  • “Very little freezing in California, when it does just thaw with hot water, small waterers”
  • “South Texas doesn’t need much ice-breaking.”
  • “In Arizona winter only lasts a couple months, I just break the ice.”
  • “I live in the Pacific Northwest so a lot of rain but very little freezing temps.”
  • “Ice not big problem in New Mexico. When I lived in Missouri I used to cover half of tank with plywood along with heater.”

And others left general comments and tips:

  • “Know how much your horse drinks, at what time of day, and in what season of the year.”
  • “I also wrap extra protection around the cord, as one horse likes to rearrange things.”
  • “Horses will not drink out of trough with a heating element. They must feel the current.”
  • “I also add apple juice to the partly frozen water.”
  • “Make sure the tank is grounded! My friend’s horse was electrocuted.”
  • “I like to monitor intake so don’t use automatic waterers.”
  • “I carry buckets of water from house up to four times a day in cold weather.”

You can find additional resources and information on horses’ water requirements, chore-efficient winter water supply ideas, automatic waterers, tips for keeping water troughs thawed with or without a heater, heated water trough safety tips, and tips from readers on how to fight frozen water sources at TheHorse.com! 

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health E-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.