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Whether your horse lives out or just goes out for a few hours a day, they still require access to clean, fresh, drinkable water. Most people use a stock tank, skip bucket, or bath tubs to provide water. There are several stock tank heaters available that can cater to the different types and sizes of tanks. Those who are really lucky may have a year round water trough that never freezes. These are common on cattle farms and are excellent, but extremely expensive to install.
What you need
You will need to ensure you have a good set up for your water when preparing for the winter. Your tank should be in a safe, stabilized place where it can't tip or be knocked over. You also want to make sure that hay and other debris won't be getting into it. A water source that won't freeze is also necessary. I have a hydrant that was properly installed and never freezes (so far tested up to -24). With the hydrant a hose outside isn't necessary and it avoids a tonne of hassle involved in moving and disconnecting the hose, along with storing it somewhere warm so it doesn't freeze. Hydrants are costly, but they are one thing that I would say are worth the investment. They will save you a lot of time and annoyance over the years. If you have a hydrant and it does freeze, you can insulate around it and also get a plug to heat it if you have an electrical source.
An electrical source will also be needed. An outlet by the trough is ideal, however many people don't have that option. You may need to use an extension cord, in which case you want to make sure you have an outdoor one that is winterized, and I recommend putting it in a small tube if it will be in the horses field. You want any electrical wires to be out of the field if possible. You can also run it along the fence line if this is an option for you. Your electrical source should be properly installed by an electrician, and have a ground that will prevent a fire if there is a short. Your outlet should also have weather protection if it is outside.
Stock Tank Heater Options
Depending on the type of tank you have, there are several choices available for stock tank heaters, and a wide variety of prices.
Bucket Heater: Unlike the above units, this is a water heater and not a de-icer. It heats water and can heat to the point of boiling. They are designed to go inside a smaller unit like a bucket or a skip bucket. I'm not a big fan of these, I have heard of them melting buckets that were left unattended. They will be easily removed from the bucket also. I would suggest these be used under supervision only.
There are some other options if you don't have a trough, for example a heated bucket or heated skip bucket that is insulated can do the job. Part 2 of this post will explore water heaters for inside the barn, and hopefully give you some ideas to help you avoid facing frozen water buckets this winter!
Do you use any of these stock tank heaters? What do you like/dislike about them?