Prevent Winter Water Woes

Winter precedes one of the most exciting times on the farm. With the arrival of newborn foals coinciding with plummeting temperatures, planning must begin many months before. Every member of the Stonestreet team is prepared for the worst-case weather scenario, including the Facilities Manager who faces some unique challenges; freezing weather also means freezing water.

Turn out time is an important part of every horse’s daily routine; our herd will spend up to 20 hours grazing in large fields, the biggest of which is 70 acres. To ensure proper hydration, every paddock is outfitted with automatic “waterers”; devices that provide a constant source of water via a hose or waterline and differ in size according to paddock capacity.

Providing water during the warmer months is an easy task, but during the winter it becomes a challenging effort. Underground waterlines run to the automatic waterers, with insulation protecting the sections of the waterlines above ground. A water valve automatically opens to refill the water bowl whenever a horse consumes water.

The most valuable component of the waterer during winter is the installed electric heater, located safely underneath the stainless steel or plastic removable water bowl. Underground electric lines supply power to the encased system. A large portion of the insulated waterer is underground when installed allowing for ground heat to aid with heat retention.

An insulated, plastic horse waterer. Thirty-six inches of the waterer will be underground when installed and a heating element will be added.

Heating elements are either wired or plugged in.

The heater’s function extends beyond making sure water stays in liquid form. Horses prefer warm water to ice cold or almost freezing water and will drink more when it is available. With the average horse consuming between 6-10 gallons of water per day, it is important they have constant access to prevent dehydration and the serious health risks associated with it, like colic.

Each day before horses are turned out in a paddock, every waterer is cleaned and checked by caretakers. These inspections are essential to identifying any issues at an early stage and to keeping a waterer functional. Maintenance is most commonly needed when the electric heater fails or the water valve becomes clogged and requires replacement. Regular cleaning removes the debris that can cause these problems.

There are many different environmental adversaries to the effectiveness of a heater. Location of the waterer, such as on the top of a hill versus the bottom and the wind conditions at that location, will also affect temperature. Additionally, the larger the capacity of a water bowl, the more time and energy it takes to heat.

Hydration is important throughout the year and keeping up with proper maintenance of waterers is essential to horse health. The joint effort between the equine and farm caretakers gives every horse constant access to clean, unfrozen water all winter long.