Something that is really important to talk about is the topic of clean and accessible water for horses. It’s a given that horses should have water available to them, surprisingly though, making sure it is clean and readily available doesn’t always happen. I say surprisingly because there are so many different problems that are perfectly preventable if the horse could just drink regularly from a clean source of water.
Let’s start with dirty water. Here is a picture of a water tub for a horse:
Sadly, this is a regular occurrence. Water doesn’t get changed out for weeks, just topped up, or very irregularly even just topped up. When water sits for weeks, this is what it will look like in the summer. Algae growth happens fast and when the sun hits it, it’s exponential. A perfect mix for growing algae and other organisms, let alone all the mosquitoes that will happily start breeding in there. Standing water is the worst water to have.
This problem is completely preventable with minor maintenance of the tub and water supply. Simply dumping out the water to clean the tub with a bit of bleach and a scrub brush (which is the best thing to do here), or, at the very least a few drops of bleach could be put in and mixed around. Doing such a thing will not harm the horse and will help kill off what is living in there. It would be the bare minimum in this case.
To go a step further from completely cleaning this tub out, would be to place it in a shady spot. Some place that doesn’t get direct sunlight so that the rays of the sun aren’t encouraging the growth of plant life. It may even be possible to put a lid on this container and just leave an opening for the horse to get it’s nose in.
Another option is to completely change it out for a cattle/livestock watering container. The really good types have a ball that can be pushed into the water by the animal to then get a drink. When done, the ball comes back to the opening and plugs it up to prevent bugs and sunlight from getting in.
If summer isn’t a big enough of a pain to maintain clean water, winter brings inaccessibility through icing. Obviously this is perfectly preventable with a heater, but that’s not always an option. Heaters are expensive and require power. Without a reliable power supply and a setup that has the horse not chewing on wires, it may be that the water has to be managed manually.
Without proper management of water containers in the winter time, it can get to a point where you will have dehydration setting in despite it not being hot, just through inaccessibility. Regular removing of ice is imperative for horses as they generally don’t try to get through anything more than a half inch thick. The ice above was over an inch and a half thick, without human intervention this horse would not have had water for another day.
Lack of water and dehydration can lead to the most common cause of horse death, colic. Without proper hydration the stomach and intestines don’t process the hay as it should and push it through their very long intestines and out. When that happens, it gets blocked up and if veterinarian care is not provided in time, they die a horribly painful death. All just for a lack of water.
While this problem is somewhat common, I don’t believe it’s the majority and most people are very aware that their horse needs 24/7 accessible, clean water.