Water, Water Everywhere...And Every Drop Is Frozen
Spending your winter days breaking up ice in frozen water troughs in sub-zeo weather can sure take the joy out of owning your own horse. Possibly the only thing worse is having the power go out and losing your water pressure altogether.
Water is, of course, important to your horse at any time of year. We usually worry most about our horses dehydrating when the temperatures soar during the summer months. Amazingly, though, during the wintertime it is necessary for your horse to keep hydrated in order to maintain a healthy warm body temperature. With this thought in mind, it might be worth the expense of investing in automatic heated waterers. Unless, of course, you enjoy breaking ice several times a day...
Lines for automatic waterers can be run to the individual stalls in your barn. Waterers should be installed low enough that the horses don't have to strain their necks to reach them, but high enough that dirt doesn't get kicked into the bowl. Shoulder height is a good rule to follow (the horse's...not yours).
A heated unit for outdoor use can be obtained at most farm supply stores . This will fit into your communal trough in the pasture and keep it relatively ice free. Place the trough in an area that is easily accessible for several horses to simultaneously drink; and you might want to consider placing rubber wash mats around it in order to keep the area around the tank from becoming knee deep in mud.
For those of you on a shoestring budget, insulated bucket holders with a "floater" might be an option. These are relatively inexpensive and can help keep a heavy ice formation from accumulating, especially if you refill it twice a day. Heated buckets with wire wrapped cords are a little higher in price. These fit into a bucket holder that keeps them in place and the cord can be run through the wall and plugged into a standard outlet. You'll spend only pennies a month in electricity costs, since the bucket will automatically turn on and off when the temperature reaches 42 degrees.
Ideally, a generator hooked up to the well will keep your water on if the power goes out. But if you don't own a generator, simply filling 30 gallon plastic water containers and keeping them in the house or any area that will not freeze, can do wonders toward keeping your animals watered while you wait for the power to be restored.