The first and most important point to make in this post, is that water is a nutrient – the most important and vital nutrient that your horse requires. In my years of working with and around horses, I’ve found the regard for water amongst horse owners to be nowhere near high enough. Then along came automatic waterers…
You love them, right? Oh the convenience! No more lugging buckets of water into the stable, or running hose pipes down the stable block. No more turning the tap on 2 miles up the road, racing down to the field to check that it’s running and then racing back up again before the vessel overflows. Gone are the days of your horse making a wild, frivolous game of the water tub in the stable, hammering away at ice covering an old bath tub full of water in the field (not the nicest way to spend a winters morning, I admit) and worrying about whether or not your horse has enough water.
The problem is that water becomes that thing you don’t need to worry about. The thing you don’t need to think about. The thing that takes care of itself. Here are the top 3 reasons that I believe the convenience of automatic waterers really isn’t worth it.
1. When there’s an automatic waterer in place, we stop checking the trough (as much). – Some will stop checking the trough at all. Many though, will stop checking water as frequently and most won’t check it daily any longer. Daily checks are essential to ensure that nothing has fallen, crawled or otherwise strayed into your horses’ drinking vessel. If a barn critter has made its way in there, the water will be understandably unappealing to the horse. Other problems can occur too – bedding kicked up into the bowl, a blockage preventing the water from refilling or filling up to a suitable level. If you’re only checking water every 2-3 days, your horse could go 2 -3 days without water!
2. You have no idea how much your horse is actually drinking – Horses generally drink between 25 and 50 litres of water a day. This will increase in hot weather or following heavy exercise. Knowing how much water your horse drinks when it is healthy and well is a very important tool for being able determine when your horse is unwell. For many health problems, altered water consumption is an early sign/ symptom. Without the ability to spot that symptom, you may not recognise the problem until it has worsened substantially. Knowing your horses ‘normal water intake’ is as important as knowing their other ‘normal data’, such as resting heart rate, respiration rate etc.
3. Automatic doesn’t mean glitch-free – There are countless problems that can occur with automatic waterers. Some of those problems have been listed above such as overflowing bowls or blockages. But here are some others
- burst pipes
- frozen pipes
- electricity causing electric shocks to horse when drinking (due to issues with piping installation or bent pipes coming in contact with wires or electric fencing)
- fire risk if using a heated system
Many horse owners swear by their automatic waterers and wouldn’t consider changing, which is certainly fair enough. For me, the pros don’t outweigh the cons, and I stick with buckets and the extra workload. The main take-away point from this is that if using automatic waterers, one should be more vigilant, not less. Check the water frequently and consistently, regularly clean out the waterer and ensure your horse is comfortably and willingly using the system!
What are your experiences with automatic waterers? Do you love them or hate them? Share your thoughts below