Horse Watering Systems: How Do I Keep My Horses Hydrated?
By Peter McGuire
Water plays a crucial role in the lives of horses. A horse needs an average of 5 to 10 gallons of water a day, depending on conditions like heat and diet. A lack of water can put them at higher risk for impaction colic, kidney failure, and a score of other dehydration-related issues. Keeping horses hydrated is the most fundamental part of keeping them healthy and happy. That’s why it’s important to find the horse watering system that’s right for you.
Manual Watering Options
There are a few simple options for keeping horses hydrated. These may seem like good options because they tend to be easy and cheap to set up but in the long term they will require more time and effort to keep working properly than an automatic horse watering system.
Buckets are cheap, quick, and easy to put out. However, because of their small size, they will empty quickly and warm up quickly. Horses drink less water when it’s hot and may have issues keeping their body temperatures down. If buckets are your main solution, you will need to keep a close eye on them to make sure they’re being filled often enough for your horses’ needs.
Troughs are larger containers than buckets, so they will keep cooler longer and won’t need to be refilled as often. That said, they do have their drawbacks. It takes time to cool them off, time to scrub the algae out of them, and more time to fill them afterwards. Algae buildup has to be monitored closely because it can be dangerous for horses. Some algae release toxins that can cause colic and diarrhea in horses. It can affect the taste of the water, making it less desirable to horses and causing them to drink less water than they need.
Automatic Horse Waterers
There are two main types of equine automatic waterers, one of which has more drawbacks than the other.
Automatic Float Waterers
This by far the most common automatic horse watering trough. There are hundreds of brands of this type of waterer (chances are, you own one) and they work by the same principle as the tank in a flush toilet. A float attached to a valve goes up and down depending on the water level in the trough. When the water level gets below a certain point, the float triggers the valve to release water, filling the tough back up.
A major problem with this type of automatic water trough is standing water. As we all know, standing water becomes rancid quickly. It must be regularly checked and cleaned to ensure that algae, bugs and other critters looking for a drink don’t get stuck in it and contaminate the water. Worse still, standing water is the mosquito’s breeding ground, which can increase the spread of disease among your livestock. And, like manually fed toughs, the water can get too hot for your horses to comfortably drink, causing them to drink less.
Paddle-Operated Automatic Waterers
The automatic horse waterer available from the Drinking Post is able to avoid the issues associated with standing water by only filling up on demand and releasing the water immediately when the horse is done drinking. In our opinion, this is the best horse waterer available. They operate similarly to a yard hydrant: when the valve is activated by depressing a paddle, fresh, clean, cool water comes up from a below-ground pipe. This ensures that the water stays cool and does not pool. As a result there is no standing water for algae, bugs and critters to take advantage of. They can even be used as horse stall waterers.
The main drawback to this watering option is that it is a permanently installed unit, so it does require digging down to and connecting directly to your water supply line. However, once these units are installed, your animals have permanent, year-round access to fresh, clean, cool water at all times. The time savings for you is enormous: no more lugging water and hoses around and no more laboriously checking and scrubbing troughs. Your animals get cool water that they actually want to drink and as a result they often drink more and keep themselves healthier and happier. It’s a win-win for you and your livestock.