Horse Buckets and Feeders

Buckets that have J hooks at the ends of the handles can pose injury risks for your horses. Thinkstock

There are 1,001 (probably more) options for buckets and feeders. It can be time consuming to research each and every model. In this article, we’ve highlighted key considerations to keep in mind when you are researching buckets and feeders for your horses.


Buckets with “J” shaped handle ends can gap over time, creating an opening that can pinch (or catch and rip) eyelids and nostrils. Even when the manufacturer puts a rubber cap on the metal hook end, it often becomes sprung and gapped over time. Horses rub on bucket handles and frequently catch their eyelids or nostrils on the J hook gap. When the horse pulls back, the tissue tears, often causing very serious trauma.

Choosing buckets with hardware that doesn’t have this design is one option. Another is to use duct tape around all bucket handles, even if they do not have much of a gap and the end is covered by rubber.


As an agricultural engineer, Eileen Fabian, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, is always looking for ways to improve efficiencies. “I’m always looking for ways to move materials, feed and water more efficiently,” she said.

Automatic watering systems are one way to reduce the amount of water carted from one side of the property to another and cut down on the need for multiple hoses. “Watering systems sure make it a lot easier than carrying around buckets,” she said.

Health Considerations

Choose buckets or feeders that are easy to keep clean. Uneaten grain can ferment and consuming fermented grain can make horses colic. Access to clean, fresh drinking water is equally important. It is important to select a water tub, bucket or watering system that can easily be cleaned or flushed.


Barns in winter climates will have to contend with icy buckets and frozen hydrants. Heated water buckets are one option. Frost-proof, self-draining hydrants and freeze-proof automatic waterers  are other solutions.

“Water pipes within the stable need to be buried to the same depth as supply plumbing to the stable site,” said Fabian. This will prevent water pipes from freezing and possibly bursting.


Always look for buckets or feeders that are safe, easy to keep clean and ones that cut down on waste. Choose models that are solid and won’t rust. Talk with your veterinarian, nutritionist or local extension agent to learn about the differences in feeding off the ground or in elevated feeders, buckets or racks. Once you’ve done your homework, then you can select equipment that is the best fit for your facility.

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