This blog is about my life, a 31 yr old filly; working in the city, balancing her career, passion for horses, dogs, and the life they deserve. Following my dreams, and getting there takes a lot of patience and a sense of humour. This is my take on life, and the amazing and stupid things in it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Farm Girl Fridays ✫ #4 - Water Heaters Pt 1 - Stock Tank Heaters

 It's that time of year where if you haven't already, you want to start to think about how you are going to keep fresh clean water available to your horse throughout the winter.  Water is the single most important part of your horses diet.  Ice and snow will not be sufficient to keep your horse healthy in the winter.  Colic due to failure to provide fresh water is the leading cause of Equine deaths in the winter.  Let's explore some tried and true methods to ensuring your water stays drinkable all winter long, even in the chilly (brrr) place I call home in Ontario.

you don't want this.


 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.  

Floating De-icer:  This type of heater is placed into the tank (before freezing) and come with a clip to attach the cord to the edge of the tank.  There are a few different options also, some with covers and some without.  The vary in strength, wattage, cord length, and size to adjust to the size of tank you have.  Some are thermostat controlled to prevent over heating in low water conditions.  They are designed to not flip over and not sink.  They can be used in plastic or metal troughs.  This is what I use, it works great.  The only con I know of is that horses who are playful can pull them out by the cord and destroy them easily (yes Parker I am referring to YOU).

Sinking De-icer:  Similar to the floating de-icer but designed to sink to the bottom.  Less likely to be disturbed by livestock, however they are attached by a cord and so they can be pick up and dragged out.  Covers are also available to protect the element (pictured above).

Drain Plug De-icer:  This type of de-icer fits securely into the drain of the tank.  There are sizes and designs available for all tank types.  It keeps livestock away from it and it also can not be removed by the horses.  In my opinion these are one of the best designs.  My only hang up is that if the water goes below the de-icer, it is very hot and a horse can burn its nose on it if it were to touch it.  Can be used in plastic or metal tanks.

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?


  1. My barn uses the sinking de-icer in all the outside troughs. The horses definitely prefer to drink out of them then the icy water in their stalls--so I'm looking forward to reading the next post on inside water bucket heaters!

  2. Interesting. I've been looking for something for the Newfs for the winter since they spend so time outside and the water freezes so fast in their bowl. Any suggestions? I don't need anything HUGE, maybe bucket sized.

    1. I would try this Jen, expensive but they are excellent. I will do a more in depth post next Friday.

  3. I am glad to be ice-free since August,, 2013 :) Now I just have to worrying about my horse getting bleached by the sun!!

  4. We've switched to the Allied 5 gallon heated buckets for smaller groups of our goats. The element is not exposed to the water. I've found that some animals are extremely sensitive to any current in the water, even with a new tank heater with an exposed element there seems to be some current which means they won't drink, not good. We have a few of the blue floating tank deicers from farm innovations, and the animals don't seem to mind them, again because I think the heating element is not exposed.

    1. This is a good point. My horses were not keen on drinking this year at first when I put their de-icer in initially. Some don't mind, others seem totally put off.

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