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Ice melting products and horses?

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  • Ice melting products and horses?

    My water trough has been giving me grief this winter. First the drain hole screw in heater failed, resulting in a giant ice cube.

    Then we had leakage problems with the new drain hole heater....that now seems to be resolved as well.

    However, I now have ice around the water trough. I have covered the ice patches in cherry stone grit to afford traction but, in a surprising show of self preservation, the horses still seem to be avoiding it.

    I have tried to chip the ice away but that does not work. The water trough is located inside of my run in shelter (on a sandy surface) and it has to stay there because that is where the outside electical plug is. So moving it to another location is not an option.

    Unless I make the ice go away it will not melt on its own until...end of March if I am lucky.

    I would really like to use some ice melting granules (salt, basically, with some other nasty chemicals added) to get rid of it but I am concerned that the beasties will lick it, despite the fact that there is salt block not 10 feet away. I also don't want them to ingest sand and cherry stone grit.

    How likely are they to lick the ice melt and would it be harmful?

  • #2
    You might just get a couple rubber mats and lay over the ice. You won't have to worry about chemicals and have the mats to use other places when winter is done. I would not want to be doing the chemicals, so horses could be licking on them. Horses do STUPID things, so I don't allow them that chance to hurt themselves.

    You also might want to make sure the tank is REALLY grounded, so horses are not drinking because they are getting shocked. Ice on the ground may not be a factor at all! Your rubber boots will ground you, so sticking your hand in the tank is not really an accurate "test" for stray voltage.


    • #3
      As long as you're certain that it is properly grounded (!) and the footing is not slippy, maybe they are just suspicious of your Cherry Stone Grit. Could you not tempt them by putting some apples in the water? If mine are every being weird about drinking giving them the chance to be utterly juvenile and play apple bobbing always does the trick. There will be some splashing but not enough to make the ground even more slippy! I'm lucky mine get on well and aren't too competitive when it comes to apple bobbing etc, if you think yours are going to fight and therefore slip then this is not a smart idea!!


      • Original Poster

        So how exactly do I check for stray voltage? I have had the same set up for 13 years and have never had a stray voltage issue. Just plug in to the wall (socket is partially enclosed with a wooden box to keep it tamper proof).

        Re: rubber mats...frozen mats are pretty slippery as well. I also think they are suspicous of the footing being a different colour so would likely avoid the mats as well.

        Re: apple bobbing....my colt would have a lot of fun with that, the mare would stay even further away!

        Maybe I should try just plain coarse salt, that should also melt the ice but not as quickly as the special ice melting products.

        The ever logical DH notes that they are not draining the water buckets in their stalls over night and suggests "maybe they just aren't that thirsty"

        Thanks for the suggestions, I will check for stray voltage. Once I figure out how!


        • #5
          You could use magnesium chloride to melt the ice. It's environmentally safe.Its a sea salt so should be safe if they try to eat it


          • #6
            You might want to be careful about using any kind of salt. My neighbor, who is one of our township trustees, just told me that he had to remove all the salt from the broken down salt truck because people steal it and use it on their gravel driveways. He said it turns those driveways into mud and you can never find the bottom. That's why they make two runs on my road. One run to salt the paved part and another to put gravel only on the dirt part. So if you use salt the horses might disappear into the mud never to be seen again!


            • #7
              I haven't had much trouble with rubber mats outside, they heat up faster because they are black and melt the ice off pretty good. I do brush off the deeper snow first.

              Sorry about them being suspicious, mine are used to walking on mats in the stalls, trailer, so they never hesitate if I move a mat to a new place.

              Perhaps emptying some stall cleaning bedding or manure onto the ice area, would give them a better grip. I do this when we get iced or melting snow freezing suddenly, leaving everything slippery with sheet ice.

              I don't like salting the ground, you can kill the dirt. Rome salted Carthage, nothing grew there for hundreds of years! Salt washes down into the water drainage too, salty water is not good for animals or the land.

              I WOULD worry about any horses not drinking, inside or out. That is the way to impaction colic. Dehydrated so they can't move the dry feed inside.

              I add salt to my horse grain DAILY, to get them drinking more. I pull out a tongue and put salt on it if they won't eat the grain. They WILL eat the salt and start drinking better. I expect some minimum quantities per horse gone from their bucket and tank daily. Mine have a 3 day cycle, with one day of less water. However they do this ALL THE TIME, so for them this cycle is regular/normal. For other horses it could be a danger sign of too little intake.

              The many threads on Horse Care about drinking, show how important water intake is to horses. Lots of threads about sick or dead horses who didn't drink well.

              Can't remember if a voltmeter will test for the stray voltage in a tank.


              • Original Poster

                Well, I did end up using coarse salt and it seems, over the course of a couple of days, to have melted the ice. The stock tank is inside the run in shed so I am not worried about killing the grass (no grass to begin with) and I don't have run off.

                Due to the melting ice, the sand was a darker colour. So I have dutifully been covering it up with sand from other parts of the shed so that it does not look "different'.

                I thought perhaps the suspicous mare needed encouragement, so I led her up to the tank and tried to encourage her to drink from it. She was fine to walk up to it, had no interest in checking it out. I cupped water in my hand and she slurped it up. She was clearly thirsty, so I got a bucket and scooped up water from the tank and she drank from the bucket.

                While I am doing this another horse walks up to check out what we are doing...and proceeds to drink out of the tank.

                I can't feel a current with my hand but I suppose it might be there and Miss Mare is perhaps more susceptible. Or she got shocked when the last one malfuncitioned and is still suspicious? Sigh.

                I will now investigate stray voltage.....

                I will make sure they are getting water by bucket until I sort out this tank problem. grrr.

                Thanks everyone, for your suggestions.