Pros and Cons of Horse Troughs



When it comes to watering, I have always used the traditional horse trough. I was taught that you water your animals with a trough and I never questioned it. I’m sure there are lots of you out there just like me! We’ve never thought twice about our troughs! However, there are actually lots of other watering options to explore. Once I saw all the other options I had to choose from, I began to think twice about my horse trough… Each watering option has some positives and some negatives to examine. So today, we are going to dive into the pros and cons of using a traditional horse trough. Should you stick with your trough or think about exploring new options? Let’s check ou the pors and cons of horse troughs


Horses drinking from a horse trough.

First, we’re going to talk about the pros. Obviously there must be good things about using horse troughs, right? Otherwise how would they have remained the go-to method for watering all these years? Here are a few of the pros for a traditional trough:

1. They are Cheap!

Purchasing a horse trough for your barn is one of the cheapest options. You can get a plastic trough, a galvanized trough, or even a rubber trough for your animals. All these options will run you less than $200 and they will probably last you for years (unless you have a horse that likes to go swimming in the summer and rolls your trough in the process! We all know one…and we know that can damage your plastic trough pretty quickly). They are also easily accessible, you can pick up a horse trough at your local feed store for a couple hundred bucks or less and be watering your animals right away.Bay horse using a plastic water trough.

2. Can Monitor Water Intake

Next, you can monitor your animals’ water intake. One of the biggest reasons people recommend horse troughs over other methods is they believe it’s easier to monitor how much water their animals are drinking. The more you have to fill the trough, the more they are drinking – easy! However, even though you can monitor their water intake by watching the trough levels go down, you can’t actually encourage them to drink more (you know, the whole “you can lead a horse to water” thing…).

3. They are Simple

Finally, they are simple! There are no moving parts and nothing that could potentially stop working. It really doesn’t get much easier than a giant bucket of water. You just have to make sure it stays filled and you are good to go! (Well, actually, there’s a little more to it than that… you do have to keep it clean and ice-free, but we’ll get into that more later).



Group of horses drinking together from a water trough. 

While these pros make horse troughs seem super simple, I haven’t addressed any of the drawbacks yet (you said you wanted the good news first, right?). Now let’s get into the cons so we can develop a well rounded view of using a horse trough:

1. Can’t Regulate Temp

You can’t regulate the water temperature. Troughs are just a giant reservoir of water that sits out in the weather and elements. In the summer, the water will heat up and get uncomfortable for your animals to drink. I don’t even like drinking room temperature water, I definitely wouldn’t want to drink hot water that’s been sitting in the sun all day! (I’ll let you in on a secret… your animals don’t either!) Hot water can discourage them from drinking their fill which can lead to dehydration and all sorts of health problems. Especially if your animals are working in the summer and sweating, it’s even more important to make sure they are staying hydrated.

Then in the winter, you have the opposite problem! You can’t keep the water from freezing! Anyone who has had a horse trough knows that breaking ice is just part of the gig. I have many not-so-fond memories of breaking ice in the early mornings with my sister before we went off to school. We would take our hammers down every morning in the freezing cold and work together to de-ice our trough. It was the worst! At least I had a buddy to help me though… I know a lot of you are doing it all on your own.

In an attempt to reduce the amount of ice-breaking duties, a lot of people will add a heating element to their horse trough (can I offer anyone a high electricity bill? No takers?). Plus, you know your horse loves to play in his water, add a heating element and they are bound to mess around with the wires or just plain rip it out. Heating elements can also be dangerous because of the potential for electric shock. You’ll be shocked too when you get your electricity bill.

2. Time Consuming

If you think breaking ice in the winter sounds bad, cleaning algae in the summer is just as bad, maybe even worse! You have troughs full of hot water sitting out all day and growing algae like it’s their job – gross! If you use a trough to water your animals, you’re no stranger to the summer scrubbing. In the hottest months, you have to do this multiple times per week. That’s a whole lot of work! Not to mention the hay, debris, bugs, and everything else that ends up floating around in there almost immediately after cleaning and refilling it (how frustrating!). I will reiterate that I definitely would not want to drink out of that, and I doubt my horse is too jazzed about it either… Horse using a concrete water trough.

3. Water-Borne Illnesses

Troughs can also leave your animals vulnerable to water-borne illnesses. I’m sure you’ve gathered by this point that troughs are not the cleanest water source… Even when we try our best to keep them spick n’ span. For starters, blue-green algae can form on the surface of your water, this releases natural toxins that can poison your horse! Not to mention all the bugs that a standing water source attracts… primarily mosquitos which can carry West-Nile Virus and mayflies and caddisflies which can introduce the organism that causes Potomac horse fever! If you decide to water with a trough you need to be extra vigilant and stay on top of your cleaning to prevent your animals from falling ill as a result of these water-borne illnesses.

So, how can we address these issues?

One way is with the Drinking Post waterer. The Drinking post is a frost-free automatic water that uses no electricity. Yes, it is possible to be frost-free and automatic and use no electricity! ThisHorse using a Drinking Post automatic horse waterer. means fifty degree water year around – no breaking ice in the winter and no summer scrubbing to remove algae. No heating elements that will increase your electricity bill or give your horse a shock! Plus, think of the health benefits if your animals have access to the freshest water all year around. They won’t be able to get enough – goodbye, dehydration! Plus, after the install (which is easy, by the way) you don’t have to do any work to keep it clean or maintained. Yep, you heard me right – no work. For more information on how the Drinking Post works visit this page or contact us with any questions.

I hope you’ve found this guide to horse troughs helpful and informative. Horse troughs have both positives and negatives and you have to make the right decision for you and your animals. The first step is having all the correct information to make your decision! For many of us, our horses and animals are our family! We love them like family and we want to take care of them like family. As a general rule of thumb, think about if you would drink from your horses’ trough – if not, it might be time to consider another watering method. For more information on your watering options, you can read our blog article that details the different types of watering methods you can implement.

Don’t forget to go over to Instagram or Facebook and tell us why you either love or hate using a trough!


4 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Horse Troughs”

    • Any horse can learn to use the Drinking Post, regardless of age! We’ve never had an animal that’s been unable to learn the Drinking Post. We include a Training Paddle with every purchase which makes it easy to train any animal! You can follow this link for more information on training: and you can always call with any additional questions.

  1. How do you protect the drinking post from the horse’s and cattle rubbing, crowding, kicking ect. In a open pasture

    • We sell many Drinking Posts to horse/cattle owners each year and a lot of them have this concern about leaning and rubbing. The Drinking Post is made of PVC which is very strong, but has flex when needed. So if animals are leaning and rubbing, it will flex with the pressure instead of breaking. We do not get calls from customers saying their animal broke their Drinking Post, so this should not be a big concern. If you are worried about it and want to take steps to prevent it, there are some things you can do. First, when installing the Drinking Post, you can put it up against a fence or a structure so your cattle can’t access it on all sides. Similarly, you could split a fence line with your Drinking Post. This is advantageous because it will allow 2 different lots to have access the same Drinking Post and it will reduce the surface area available for leaning and rubbing. If you are installing your Drinking Post in an open pasture where you can’t put it in a fence like or up against a fence or structure, you could create a barrier with a tire. Just put a tire around the Drinking Post so they can still get a drink, but they can’t get right up against the Drinking Post to lean and rub. You could also fabricate a barrier out of 2×4’s if you would prefer to do that instead of using a tire.


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