The coming of winter brings special concerns for horse owners. Access to fresh water can be difficult when the temperature begins to drop.
With the exception of oxygen, a deficiency of water produces death more rapidly than a deficiency of any other substance.
The average-sized horse needs about ten gallons of water per day. Horses at work need even more. According to Dr. Lon Lewis’ “Care and Feeding of the Horse,” when water is readily available, increased water consumption occurs as a result of increased drinking frequency. There is a direct correlation between drinking frequency and ambient temperature, with a large increase in frequency at temperatures above 85 degrees. When water is readily available, most horses drink once for only about 30 seconds or less every few hours. If water is not readily available, more and longer drinks may be taken during a drinking bout.
Where we live, beginning around the end of October, it is necessary to keep a close eye on the water tank. We begin to heat the water about that time so the water does not freeze. A careful eye must be kept on the water supply daily. We do not have automatic waterers, where the horse drinks and the water is refilled. We fill the tank using a garden hose.
Frozen hoses must be avoided so that access to water supply is not compromised. We do this by detaching the hose and leaving it in the sun, wound up to prevent any water remaining in the hose to freeze. If exceptionally cold, we put the hose in the house.
When the tank heater is defective, a short in the system can occur that leads to the horse avoiding the water supply. We had this problem recently. The electrician came out to replace the wiring so if there is change in the current such as a surge, the power shuts off. With this upgrade, the horses were still a little leery of the tank. We figured out that the heating element in the tank was defective. Since it was still under warranty, it was replaced, and the horses are drinking well. Horses can drink out of buckets, but unless they are kept filled all day long, the volume is not enough to satisfy the daily intake of water.