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Spinoff: Water 24/7

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  • Spinoff: Water 24/7

    My guys are out 24/7 and they will often spend 5+ hours grazing, before coming back to the barnyard trough for a drink. (Even longer in spring/summer when the grass has a lot of moisture in it). Based on the # of swallows I watch them take, I'd estimate they drink 3/4 to 1 bucket's worth at a time.

    Not advocating empty buckets in a stall.But what if a horse occasionally drinks his bucket until it's empty, and then has to wait a couple hours until it is refilled? (If that happens routinely, then I'd say he needs two buckets, but the same question still applies):

    Is it more risky for a stalled horse to not have water in front of it for a couple hours, when this is essentially what they choose to do when at liberty?

    How much time with an empty bucket before you think he's in danger?

  • #2
    But your horses do have water, they just choose when to drink it. That's the key - water is free choice. All of mine have 2 buckets in their stalls (except when it's very cold and they're not drinking as much and we end up with 5 gallon ice cubes.) Outside we have 3 with a single heated bucket each, but we top off at lunch, and 2 in a shared paddock with a 16 gallon heated tub, also topped off at lunch. In the summer ours all have bigger tubs, the individual paddocks get 16 gallon muck tubs and the shared paddock gets a 100 gallon tub.
    Last edited by 4cornersfarm; Jan. 29, 2013, 03:16 PM. Reason: adding info about summer
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    • #3
      I might get hazed for this, but in my opinion it's not quite as big a deal as it's made out to be. BUT you can't just tell people that, especially new horse people, because then it's a slippery slope and oftentimes when giving advice you factor in that it won't be followed perfectly. Which is why it's a good thing that "Horses must have clean water available 24/7" is still the standard advice.

      I have my boy at home, and my policy is that he gets water morning and night, but if he drinks more than half the bucket when I pour it in he gets another immediately. This is no small feat, as I carry it all the way from the basement in the house in the winter. I think out of the past week or so that I've had to bucket instead of use the tank I had to get him more once.

      So, long story short, chances are they won't get sick or die if they have to go a few hours without. But it's such a simple thing (usually!) to keep up that it's not worth risking it, really.
      Last edited by Mosey_2003; Jan. 29, 2013, 03:30 PM. Reason: Fix wrong word
      It's a small world -- unless you gotta walk home.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Mosey_2003 View Post
        I might get hazed for this, but in my opinion it's not quite as big a deal as it's made out to be.
        I will second this! Totally!

        People seem to get very uptight about short time periods with no water available. The same people do not give it a second thought to go on a long trail ride with no water for their horse or sit on their horse for over an hour at a show with no water offered. But an hour in a stall or paddock with out water is something to get frantic about. Sigh.

        Optimal they have fresh water available at all times. Yes. For sure. Necessary that they have full buckets in front of them every second of every day, not at all.
        There is a huge difference between not having water and sometimes not having water available.


        • #5
          I don't think they will get sick or die if they are without for a few hours (many people trailer without a bucket available, for example) and if once in a very blue moon a horse has an empty bucket in his stall (maybe due to knocking into it?) it is not a life threatening emergency.

          However, as a general horse care practice, I think it is essential to keep the buckets at least half full all the time.

          Firstly, that kind of monitoring serves to additionally monitor water intake: if suddenly someone hasn't drunk anything, the human's ears should perk up to signs of trouble.

          Secondly, it's just overall the sign of a ship shape facility. There is a lot of stuff that, while it tecnically is no harm no foul, is just sloppy. Better imo to err on the side of higher standards. If people aren't around/attentive/motivated enough for something as basic as water buckets, imagine the other shortcuts.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
            The same people do not give it a second thought to go on a long trail ride with no water for their horse or sit on their horse for over an hour at a show with no water offered.
            Actually while I agree that a couple hours trail without a stream crossing is ok, I go internally nuts when riders take a drink while aboard without making sure something is at least offered to their horse as well, under the same theory that John Lyons says two people should never roundpen the same horse one after another. If the first human is tired, he argues, that is a rough guage toward how much more to expect from the horse.

            However I mentioned this personal horsemanship preference on COTH some years ago and got widely crucified by a surprising number of people who have medical conditions that indicate they will PASS OUT AT ANY TIME if they don't have a gatorade camel pack under their Pikeur coat at all times, apparently.
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            • #7
              mosey is right. Upon moving to this wonderful frigid state I found employment at a boarding / training barn. In the winter( weather water can freeze solid here) Oct-April ( varies) the horses had no water in the stalls or turnout. The routine was to bring them in from the turnout pastures taking them to a heated trough in the barn to drink before being stalled. In the morning before turnout every horse was led again to that trough to drink their fill. I was upset about this at first, but the horses learned to drink a lot when it was available. Not one colic the whole time I was there which was 8 months and that was the norm in all the years they had been there. They just didn't have the set up to have 40 heated water buckets or troughs in turnout.

              I prefer that my horses always have access to warmed water whether they drink it or not and no horse is going to be hurt going several hours without water. They don't drink as often as people think.


              • #8
                I agree, and don't worry that much when my horse won't drink, say, while we're out for a long ride. Or a few hours at a show. Or I lock them in the barn while I have the tractor in their paddock.

                That said, I religiously check their tub and refill as needed, and usually give them each 1/2 bucket in stalls when they're in for more than an hour or so, which sometimes they drain, and sometimes ignore. So while the world will not end (and likely, no problem would come from not having water for. several hours) I would never want to see a regular practice made of having an empty bucket.


                • #9
                  I think there are studies that show the colic incidence going up dramatically for every hour in horsekeeping that the horses are deprived of free acess to water. That not a judgement, it's just a fact... so if you want to reduce the chance of colic as much as possible- you'll try to offer water at all times.

                  I also think that there is a big difference between horses in stalls with hay and no water- and, for example- a horse who has been saddled for 2 hours and has no water in front of him. I think a lot of our horse's water consumption has to do with rehydrating dry forage and moving hay in the gut... it's not all about thirst. ..or to put it another way- a lot of thirst is caused by digestive needs. If a horse is hydrated and not being fed- for example- for a trailer ride- the risk of colic due to lack of water availability is not the same compared to a horse in a stall with hay (or having consumed hay) and not having enough water to digest it.


                  • #10
                    My policy when I've done self care/had horses at home/co op is that if the horses are draining their buckets or tanks between the time I put them out and when I'm there to do chores 8-12 hours later, I need to add more buckets or tanks. I want to see water leftover. I don't want them to be without if they want it.

                    In my experience, different horses have different habits so there's no one size fits all. I had one horse who would only drink about a 1/2 a bucket overnight in the winter in her stall and another that would nearly finish 2 whole buckets. Mare that drank 1/2 a bucket would get turned out in the morning, take a huge pee (wouldn't pee in stall) then go straight for the 100 gallon tank and drink as if she'd not seen water in a day. That was the routine.

                    If we go on a long trail ride, offering water about every 2-3 hours was the norm. Horse shows? Horses did their classes but then had access to water and hay. Hauling cross country? Most respectable haulers stop and offer the horses water regularly and monitor intake.

                    I don't think that going a couple of hours without water is a problem when they have access the rest of the time. But once they get dehydrated, other issues can pop up so I don't see the point in taking the chance.

                    Further, just because some folks get away with not giving water overnight or for a day at a time and haven't had issues doesn't make it good horse husbandry. No more than having non-capped T-posts and not having had a horse ripped open means that it's a good practice, or that hauling with a rotten trailer floor and not having had an accident makes it good practice, or not vaccinating but never having lost a horse makes it good practice. There are lots of things that once you know better and choose not to do better, you WILL get bit.

                    As for shared water sources, I think that you have to also consider the herd hierarchy. If you're running out of water between chores, it's very plausible that the low guys on the totem pole are NOT getting appropriate access to the resource.

                    I watched that Sunday when I filled tanks. The herd leaders ran off the little guys til they got their fill. When the resource is finite, someone is probably going to lose out.
                    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                    • #11
                      I don't think it's a big deal for a horse to go an hour or so without water in front
                      of them, a little longer if they've already had their fill. And less of an issue in the
                      winter, when they are not loosing fluid from sweating.

                      But .. I wouldn't my horse to go more than a that without being able to drink.
                      My horse does drink a lot and has gotten dehydrated & colicked in the past from not
                      getting enough water. It wasn't a serious colic, and once she got some banamine
                      and some water she was fine.

                      When it's hot, I won't even trail ride for more than an hour unless there are streams
                      along the way for my horse to get a drink. And I bring 2 / 3 5 gallon dedicated water
                      tanks every time I trailer anywhere.

                      My mare's turnout is the riding ring, so sometimes she'll be brought in so the ring can
                      be used. So, she'll be in her stall for an hour or so with no water. But longer than that ?
                      No way.


                      • #12
                        I have my horses at home, and they have water almost all the time, because they're nearly always out in the pasture, and it's easy for me to provide it. Here's when they don't:
                        - DD is using the riding ring, so my horse stays in his stall or a small paddock that doesn't have water, because he's a dork about being separated. Or, actually, any of them are in the stall waiting for the farrier or vet. It's not usually long.
                        - They're on a trail ride, that can last upward of three hours. I'm one that would rather they wait to drink until they get home rather than get a protozoal infection from a stream (I got one once, it ain't fun)
                        - Short trailer rides (under 4 hours) with water being given as soon as they get off.

                        A lot of this would be weather-dependent of course. I'm not accounting for 95 degree days with a heat index of 110.

                        Back before heated buckets (or before I knew about them, anyway) my horse would get water in the am, and then I'd dump the buckets of ice cubes in the afternoon and re-fill with water in the pm. Depending on the temperature I don't know how long she had actual water. What I did learn is that a 5 gallon bucket can freeze solid very quickly and that horses really don't drink much when it's cold outside because those buckets would be full, I really didn't see the point of even giving her water, but I did anyway.

                        How long with an empty bucket before they're in danger? There isn't going to be one answer for that. One time may not cause a problem, repeated dehydration may cause problems. You've got so many variables, temperature, feed, how the horse chews/swallows, their metabolism, etc. Just like people.


                        • #13
                          I wouldn't worry about a couple hours every now and then. I wouldn't want it to happen every single day, all the time- but a few hours without a drink isn't going to kill them. When we take our horses camping, they are tied on the line- we offer water probably once an hour until we go to bed and then they go to bed when we do and get water first thing when we wake up. Never had a problem and we do it quite often. At home, they have free access to hay and fresh water all the time 24/7, I do think it's healthier and prefer to keep them that way but don't stress a few days of something different.


                          • #14
                            Well for a start, no horse who has gone without water is going to "drain three buckets" of water in a few minutes. Water buckets hold 4 or 5 gallons of water. A horse's stomach holds 3 or 4 gallons of water. So a thirsty horse may drink one bucket of water, but one horse who drinks 3 buckets of 4 or 5 gallons per each bucket is going to be the size of an elephant. So there's been some exaggeration on the other thread.

                            Personally, I think horses should have free choice water 24/7.


                            • #15
                              I am a stickler for water, I like water in front of them constantly, whether they drink it or not, they have it if they WANT it, not when I say they can have it which may be past the point when they NEED it.

                              We don't travel far to trail ride around here, usually the furthest we go is about 45 minutes away, mostly it's just 25 minutes away. I offer hay AND water after a ride, and also let them drink at the stream crossings if they want (and they usually don't). They usually will eat the hay, and I can't convince them to drink any water. Have one horse that will drink, but the others, not so much. I feel better knowing they have the water and not drink it, than not have the water and want some. I would feel even better if they would DRINK the water, but you know the whole "lead a horse to water..." story.

                              Also I have worked out at the barn some days ALL day never going inside, and these are hot days with temps in the 90's, and the horses will be down in the bottom pasture (where there is NO access to any water) and will only come up once MAYBE twice in a day and then go back down (in a group, it's like someone pops their head up and says "Hey, I'm thirsty, who's up for a drink with me?" and they all say "well, ok, I'll come too!") and then in the evening they come up for feed, drink and go back out.

                              I like to have it there when they come up, my schedule might not match their body schedule. I am also blessed to be in a temperate area where I don't have to deal with continuous cold weather where I have to bring them in to one heated water trough several times a day.
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                              • #16
                                I agree that they don't need water in front of them constantly. One barn I'm at doesn't have water in turnouts, so they don't have water for however long they're out. My gelding will sometimes refuse to come in for 4 or 6 hours. *shrug* Granted, I wouldn't want my horse in a stall for 6 hours without water, but I don't worry if they're without water for a few hours, provided of course that they are able to drink their fill when water is accessible again
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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Chardavej View Post
                                  I am a stickler for water, I like water in front of them constantly, whether they drink it or not, they have it if they WANT it, not when I say they can have it which may be past the point when they NEED it.


                                  I like to have it there when they come up, my schedule might not match their body schedule.
                                  Barn rat for life


                                  • #18
                                    The issue with showing up at a boarding barn and finding troughs or buckets empty is that you don't KNOW how long they have been without water. Is it an hour? Five? A whole day? Two days?
                                    If you have the horses in your backyard and know exactly that they had a full bucket 2 hours ago, that it's now empty and that you will refill it within the next half hour, that is different.
                                    "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


                                    • #19
                                      Water always. I've put two troughs out when I've caught a couple of horses guarding the trough from the othes. I've put as many as 3 buckets in a stall....just depends on the horse's water consumption.


                                      • #20
                                        I agree usually a few hours or even more without isn't likely to cause trouble BUT...

                                        I've lost two to colic early in my horse keeping career. Those experiences were so horrible, so traumatic - it is a HORRIBLE way for a horse to die - since then I've gone overboard in prevention in everything I can think of or hear of.

                                        Dehydration can cause colic, so I go to great lengths to encourage hydration. Along with the water tank always full & unfrozen, I've even been known to cart water out to the area of the field they are hanging out in, as I know sometimes the lower totem pole horse might stay a bit thirsty til the herd decides to come to water.

                                        Away from home I carry a big syringe & squirt them in the mouth (if they wont drink a few swallows from an upturned water bottle) as some horses don't like to drink from a bucket away from home.

                                        And I feed well soaked beet pulp every meal (warmed in the house in winter).

                                        After witnessing twice the horror of a fatal colic, it (water) just seems one of the easier things on the prevention list. Haven't had even a mild colic since (knock on wood) which is probably just luck but I won't change my ways soon, I'm too paranoid of colic!