Ensuring all equine in South Carolina live in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.
Lexington South Carolina 803-729-3692
|While the tendency is to be most concerned about your horse's water intake during the hot months, there is reason to be concerned about water in the winter, too.|
Horses' need for water declines in the winter. Horses, therefore, drink less. Maybe too little, however. That falling off can be countered fairly simply, researchers have discovered, by offering your horses warm water.
Does increasing consumption matter?
Yes, according to Drs. Michaela Kristula and Sue McDonnell of the University of Pennsylvania. "Anecdotal observations" suggest that decreased consumption of water can lead to impaction colic, and increasing drinking is an easy, inexpensive way of safeguarding equine health.
Their research at the university's New Bolton Center showed that a study group of ponies drank 40 percent more warm water than near-freezing water. This held true whether the water was continually heated or if the buckets were simply filled with warm water twice a day. Most drinking occurs within three hours after feeding or water refill.
Incidental to their study, they found that the ponies were actually drinking more warm water than previously published maintenance requirements.
The study group drank an average of 9.9 liters (about 2.5 gallons) daily, 62 percent more than the maintenance dosage of 6.1 liters daily.
While providing warm water may not be problematic for horses housed inside, turn-outs pose more of a challenge.
For those who have been procrastinating about putting in a heated, automatic waterer, now may be the time. A variety of models are on the market, including several new varieties constructed of rust-proof polyethylene plastic.
The important thing is to take care during installation; a little diligence in setting things up could prevent huge headaches later.
Make sure that the water lines to the unit are below the frost line, and that the unit you buy has a reputation for reliability in terms of the heating unit.
A word of caution: it is too easy to fall out of the habit of checking automatic waterers daily. Things can and do go wrong. The water pan should be cleaned out every day.
If an automatic waterer is out of the question, consider lugging out buckets of hot water from your kitchen, adding some cold water from the barn tap, and making a lukewarm drink for your horse.
Winter or summer, the rule is the same: if you wouldn't drink the water, don't ask your horse to drink it.
How to get into hot water easily
Apologies to Shakespeare, but if the parodying paraphrase is "Water, how shall I heat thee? Let me count the ways," you'd better get a calculator.
The market is awash in de-icer and water heaters.
One model floats on top of stock tanks. The styrofoam float is completely enclosed in plastic and is thermostatically controlled with an automatic shut-off. Fine for cows, but given the success of "toys" for horses, including balls and other objects to bat around in their stalls, the practicality of floating heater model for your equine friends may be a little open to question.
There are other models that don't float. Some are equipped with automatic shut-off thermostats, and are designed to sit on the bottom of the stock tank where "they are less likely to be disturbed by livestock."
For example, there are models that attach to the sides of stock tanks. These can be clamped on, preventing the more playful in the herd from removing them from the water. The heating element runs, for safety, along the bottom of the tank. The thermostat is adjustable, up to a warming 75 degrees, and is replaceable.
Inexpensive heaters that are not immersible but can be used under metal buckets, waterers, fountains, or other water enclosures are also available.
There are in-bucket heaters, designed to heat water rather than de-ice, and which -- since they can heat to boiling -- are not left in and unattended.
The newest heater on the market is a drain plug de-icer for use on the increasingly popular Rubbermaid stock tanks. The unit installs through the drain plug opening keeping the electrical cord out of harm's way. It is also thermostatically controlled.
There are also livestock watering devices which require no electricity yet can keep water from freezing by limiting exposure to the air or using heat in the earth.
Did the Bard have a long drink from a heated tank in mind when he penned the famous lines, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? No, thou are more ... temperate."
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