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Winter Watering Solutions
By: Horse Collaborative On December 06, 2012

Dom and Jimmie Schramm and Emily, their working student, give their two cents for winterizing the barn and how to prepare you and your horse for winter in the video below. Dom doesn't seem to be taking to this cold weather very well and really wasn't that helpful this week. We hope his bubbly self warms up again now that he and Jimmie have migrated to Aiken for the winter.


As any horse person knows one of the challenges to winter and horses is keeping the water tub or water buckets from freezing. We also need to be mindful that a contributor to colic is a horse not getting enough water and when cold weather sets in we must become vigilant in making sure they have access. Also, older horses with dental issues may not be able to tolerate ice cold water and may require adding some warm water to their bucket. []


The age old, low tech, simplest solution is of course to chip off ice 2-5 times per day depending on the temperature. An added tool could be a pool skimmer or a designated pitch fork, which can help in skimming off ice junks.  If you wish to invest in an insulated bucket, heated system or solar powered system there are a number of options out there.  


Water Bucket Cozy


The Water Bucket Cozy ($44.99) is an economical and efficient way to keep your buckets from freezing. Even during the coldest months in most areas, this insulated cover keeps your water from freezing. Users report the cozy is easy to slip onto a five gallon bucket and is durable. So if you do not have access nor wish to use electricity this may be a viable choice. We also noticed that Smartpak has now created their own Insulated Water Bucket Cover at a cheaper price ($39.95).



0 Degree Night Cozy VS No Cozy

The above data supplied by the manufacturer of the Water Bucket Cozy demonstrates the efficiency of their product on a 0 degrees F night. The uninsulated bucket (red line) started with 64.5 degree water and the bucket with the cozy (green line) started with 62.6 degree water. The blue line is the outside temperature. At approximately 1:30 AM or 5.5 hours later the uninsulted bucket froze over. At approximately 5:15 AM or 8.25 hours later the bucket with the cozy froze over. Impressive results for 0 degrees and hanging outside! In another study they conducted, four cups of hot water were added to the bucket when the temperature was in the mid-twenties. No ice formed on this bucket with a cozy, a skim of ice was found on the bucket with a cozy and cold tap water and an uninsulated bucket was frozen solid in six hours. So remember, the warmer the water starts out the longer it will be available to your horse![Wild Angel Cozy]


Heated Flatback Bucket


The five gallon capacity Heated Flatback Bucket ($44.99) has a a built-in thermostat and will keep water ice-free during below zero conditions. The heater is completely hidden within the walls of the plastic bucket and the "flat back" allows it to be hung in a stall. A good design solution for this product is that you can coil the hose back in the bottom when not in use and still use it as a water bucket for the rest of the year. One user reported that the warmth of the bucket encouraged the growth of algae and that they needed to scrub the bucket clean every few days, which was still far easier than tripping out to the barn 4-5 times per day to chip ice out of their buckets.



Farm Innovators Submergible Bucket Heater


Farm Innovators Submergible Bucket Heater ($38.18) is another option. This 1000-watt heater is designed to heat 5 gallons of water to 110°F within 10-15 minutes. It is thermostatically controlled to maintain water temperature between 85 -110°F. It works in any size metal or plastic bucket, tub or tank up to 4 Gallons and comes with a 6' cord.  These heaters work very well, but require a little more work as they need to be removed from the water after heating as they will rust.




25 Gal Solar Powered Water Trough


The Solar Powered Water Trough ($539.99) is more of a solution for one or more horses as the tank holds 25 Gallons.  The unit does not require electricity or fuel and is powered by the sun.  These durable, never rust troughs have been extensively field tested for 17 years and are guaranteed to -20 degrees below zero even with a wind chill factor. Now that’s cold!  The solar collector has been designed to be shatterproof, which is smart thinking with rambunctious horses around and will not freeze even when your horses are not drinking.  The company reports that this a superior product in the summer, too, because it keeps water cool and algae free. There is no drain plug, which we are not sure if this is problematic or not.  The tank fills from the top with a hose.  Even though there is no battery back-up for this item, it appears to work on direct sunlight and sunrays and so you have the UVA/UVB Index on cloudy days and the sun on sunny days. Sounds like a win/win to us as it saves time and money. Horse people that use these swear by them.


We are not going to review here the installation of heated automatic waterers; these are pricier, but are certainly the ultimate in chore efficiency and knowing that your horse has water at all times. We hope you will tell us what product works well for you and will share your solutions.


Updated December 7, 2013. 


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Please comment and share your solutions with all of us.


By: Horse Collaborative , On December 06, 2012
  Maryanne Nicpon via Facebook
We use an ice skimmer that is made for ice fishing. It is metal and has a long handle. It's very durable too. We knock the buckets with a large rubber mallet, then skim out the ice into another bucket.     
By: Horse Collaborative , On December 06, 2012
  Catherine LaBarre
I don't....I use heated buckets! It is by far the most simple. Step 1-hang bucket. Step 2-plug in. Done! And I've never had algae build up in mine as the article suggests. Certainly no more than a regular water bucket...they get dumped twice a day and cleaned with a brush regularly so maybe that's why.
By: Horse Collaborative , On December 07, 2012
  Chelsea Cummings via Facebook

I use heated buckets, too. They get dirty much quicker, so you have to clean them daily.. but it's worth it if you don't have to lug water/constantly break the ice! We also have in-line heat tape so our pipes don't freeze.

By: Horse Collaborative , On December 07, 2012
  Mary Lou Kete via Facebook
Upgraded wiring in barn and bought heated buckets.
By: Horse Collaborative , On December 07, 2012
  Mary Lou Kete via Facebook

My elbows and back rebelled against the whole frozen bucket thing! Sometimes technology is a wonderful thing.

By: Horse Collaborative , On December 07, 2012
  Kate Rakowski via Facebook

I grew up in a barn with 40 horses and we skimmed and dumped ice daily for 15 years. then I did it for another 15 or so with just a few backyard horses. then someone gave me a heated trough. I will now spend any amount of money up to an including the mortgage payment on my house to replace it if ever I need to. I can't believe that I ever spent that much time fighting ice!

By: Horse Collaborative , On December 07, 2012
  Melody Blittersdorf via Facebook

I also believe it's very important to have heated water. In frigid temps. buckets freeze over so quickly that my horses don't have access to enough water. It is tough on the electric bill but well worth it. I did a test years ago and put two identical buckets out one heated and one not. They drank much more of the tepid water. I have heard of the rare electric shock, so watch for them not drinking! Winter months I also add a pinch of salt in morning feedings to incourage drinking. Large amounts of dry hay consumption this time of year, hydration very important.

By: Horse Collaborative , On December 07, 2012
  Mary Lou Kete via Facebook
I'm hoping Santa brings me a heated trough for the paddocks. But I may have been too naughty this year.
By: Horse Collaborative , On December 07, 2012
  Jessica Jettie via Facebook

Heated buckets are great if you do not have any youngesters wanting to play with their buckets. At 70 a pop it gets expensive for the 16 gal troughs i put in stalls. For the 110 gal tanks i use a heater with cage that sinks to bottom, we run all winter dont notice electric bill changing all that much. I also have 2-110 gal both with heaters running. I def would suggest as it makes chores go a ton quicker. I do have to run an extension cord with 3 plug ins at the end one for fencer and other two for heaters... Thats how i set up my pastures. 

By: Horse Collaborative , On December 07, 2012
  Meg Hilly via Facebook

I am also a proponent of trough that I am back in VT I can happily engage in these conversations about dealing with cold weather ...last winter my 1st winter back since 1998!!! It was a nice respite from these sort of issues, and it all came back to me last winter…glad it was a non winter to ease me back north...I have a tank in the barn right next to the frost free valve, and I draw water from it and put in buckets, when the horses are in stalls during bad weather. They do not have access to this tank, it is only for me drawing H20..I like having the tank incase the power goes out or pipes freeze or for some reason there is no water- I at least have the tank full for a while. I do bring buckets in to thaw, or if you set them in the heater trough for awhile they will loosen up. no pounding buckets for me. The rest of the time my horses are OUT with access to a run in and a heated tank. If you have competition horses you probably won't be keeping your horses out so much, and u have a pretty nice barn with lots of BTU's happening. About the outdoor tanks... PS and most of you know this, but new people to horses, take note: I would strongly recommend only expose half the tank to the horses...half in and half out of the paddock fence so horses can't play with the heater or cord. I cover the half on the outside of the fence with a piece of plywood and some clamps to keep it in place. I knew a fellow who was new to horses build a beautiful huge shed, it was gorgeous. He leased a horse and for whatever reason had his shed burn down due to the trough heater- my guess was perhaps the trough was low or out or water and the horse must have put a foot in it and tipped the trough over, putting the heater on some hay. Horse lived, shed gone. Still can't bring myself to use the heated buckets, as I have in my lifetime, witnessed too many freaky situations with horses getting cast and being upside down with legs flailing against the walls to think that a bucket with an electric cord is a safe thing. I have seen them unstalled a few different ways, but I can't seem to get over this fear. so if someone would suggest a way to install the bucket/cord that was foolproof, I would be willing to hear about it. 

By: Horse Collaborative , On December 10, 2012
  Susan Yates via Facebook

Crow bar and a plastic manure fork to pull out the chunks drain the hoses and start all over in the evening.

By: Horse Collaborative , On December 12, 2012
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