As one who has both boarded and managed her horses for more than 40 years, I think I have become an expert on how to run a successful barn, whether you keep just your own horses or board other horses as well.

One of my biggest pet peeves, and something that has caused me to leave a barn, has to deal with water.

The typical horse drinks between 8 and 12 gallons of water a day. They prefer cool water…temperatures between 50-65 degrees.

A big worry this time of year, and you can read numerous articles and threads online warning about this, is the need to make sure your horse is drinking during the winter months. In years past where there has been record setting cold winter here in Florida, there were several reports posted online about horses that were lost to colic due to not drinking enough.

There are ways to make sure your horse is drinking enough in the winter. Adding a touch of salt to their diet is one way. Soaking hay is another. On really cold nights, my horses are given a warm mash, where I add warm water, carrots, Hilton Herbs Herballs and maybe some flaxseed, to their regular diet.

But to me, there are other important ways to insure that your horse drinks plenty, and not just in the winter.

Nobody relates colic to water consumption in the summer, but I bet if a study were done, they would be surprised. Why? Because I cannot tell you the number of barns that I have been to that do not provide fresh clean water to their horses daily.

Many times I have encountered water sitting in buckets and troughs that have algae slimed sides and bottoms. And I left a barn because the trough in my yearlings paddock was never dumped of its hot water at the end of the day, leaving him only water that had been sitting in the hot temperatures of the summer to drink, until I arrived to dump it out and refill it.

To me it is a very simple horse management rule. Ask yourself if you want to drink the water that you are expecting your horse to drink. Is the bucket clean or full of algae, slime, dirt, and other debris? What is the temperature of the water? Freezing cold with a layer of ice or does it feel like sitting in a hot tub?

Buckets and troughs should be dumped daily. Mine are dumped as I muck the stalls. Generally, they get a good scrubbing (as do their feed tubs) once a week. Some of my horses who are messier and like to dunk hay will require their buckets get at least a light cleaning if not every day then every other day. Buckets are dumped, rinsed as needed, and refilled with fresh cool water. The troughs are treated the same. They are dumped daily and fresh water added. I find that walking out to the paddocks and pastures to check the water is also a good time to check the fencing, look for any poisonous weeds that may have sprung up, and remove any dangerous debris or trash that may have blown into the pasture. It is all part of good stable management.

It is sad to have to lose a horse to colic. It is even more tragic if you could have prevented it by simply providing clean, cool and fresh water. 

Salt River Wild Horses. Photo credit Andrew Tankel

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