Automatic waterers are chore-efficient, conserve water and offer the peace of mind of knowing your horse always has a supply of fresh water available.

Photo: Alayne Blickle

September is a great time to get your winter water supply set up before the icy cold weather slips in and causes havoc for us all. A horse drinks 8 to 12 gallons of water per day. Research shows horses prefer water temperatures of about 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit and tend to drink less when water is cold. Keep in mind that research also tells us that a horse cannot get enough moisture by eating snow alone. Decreased water consumption can lead to colic so make every effort to ensure your horses are drinking an adequate amount.

I like automatic watering systems because they conserve water; because the waterer only requires as much water as your horse consumes. Look for systems with moderately sized water pans—a large one will get dirty quickly and full of algae, requiring you to clean and dump it frequently. Another advantage to an automatic waterer is that since water is circulating and not stagnant, it won’t provide habitat for mosquitoes. They are also chore-efficient and offer the peace of mind of knowing your horse always has a supply of fresh water available. The style of waterer we have at Sweet Pepper Ranch doesn’t require energy to run and since they only hold 5 to 10 gallons at a time, they are quick and easy to clean—and you don’t waste large volumes of water when you clean them as you might when dumping a stock tank. They also have a meter to show how much water your horse is comsuming. In addition, they're insulated to help keep water cooler during the summer and to prevent freezing in the winter.

Here's how to install an automatic waterer:

1. Choose where you will locate your waterers. I prefer having the waterer in a paddock where you can clean them regularly and where it’s okay if your horse slops the water around. I find having one in a stall problematic as far as repair or cleaning.

2.  Figure out where the nearest water line is that you will need to tap into. Obviously you want it to be as close as possible to minimize the distance you will have to bury the water line to your automatic waterer.

3. Determine how deep your pipes will need to be laid. This is depends on how deep the ground freezes in your area in the winter. You may be able to check local zoning codes with the county department that issues building permits, or ask at a local building supply company. The minimum depth should be 24 inches but it may need to be as deep as 48 inches. Frozen pipes are a major problem especially if you have to dig them up the next summer for repair – so do it correctly from the start!

4. Use a trencher to dig the ditch where you will lay your pipe. Renting a trencher might seem like an unnecessary expense, but believe me, if you have to dig a trench by hand you’ll have trouble getting it as deep and as long as you need it. Plus, a trencher creates a small, even ditch that’s only 4-6 inches wide.

5. Decide if you need to run power out to the waterers. If so, it is best if you do it at the same time so you don’t have to dig a new ditch to bury the power line. Zoning codes will tell you how much separation you need between the water and power lines when you bury then.

6. Follow the directions for the type of waterer you have purchased to anchor it into the ground. Some call for a concrete pad that the waterer bolts into. Others might only require you bury a portion in the ground. Be sure to install it according to specifications so your horses won’t knock it over.

7. Connect all water lines together and to the waterer. Turn on the water to pressurize the system and check for leaks before covering up all the pipes.

8. Cover water lines and you’re done! 

It may sound like a lot of trouble but when you are sitting in your warm house mid January it will all be worth it knowing your horses have fresh, warm water available and you don’t have to chip ice or fight frozen hoses. 

How do you provide water for horses on your property?