When CharlieAnne Huffam of Troy, New York, built her barn, she opted for an energy-efficient outdoor automatic waterer. Chore time needed to be efficient because she and her husband work off property full time.
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“Having an automatic waterer reduces the need to fill, dump and clean water tubs and buckets,” she said. “The water is always fresh. Because the waterline is underground, the water temperature remains about 50 degrees year round.”
Although waterers offer fresh water, Holly A. Matt, CEO/Head of Design of Pegasus Design Group, LLC, encourages stable owners to choose a system with bowls that hold small volumes of water so it is refreshed often.
“You have to consider your climate as well,” Matt said. “If you get freezing weather, you will need one that is heated and you will need to make sure that your water supply is protected.”
Even with a manufacturer’s freeze-free guarantee, proper installation and troubleshooting, Huffam’s waterer freezes four to six weeks each winter.
“I wish I had put one automatic watering bucket in each stall because the horses can’t always be out in the paddocks, especially during winter weather and cold nights,” Huffam said. “Now I use 20-quart heated buckets in the stalls. If the horses are stalled overnight, they have water and if they are turned out and the outdoor system is frozen, they can still walk in their stall to get water.”
If you already have automatic waterers and are looking to upgrade or replace them, Karen L. Waite, PhD, the Director of Undergraduate Education at Michigan State University, recommended choosing an established company that provides easy access to replacement parts or technical help. She said that style and brand is largely based on personal preference.
“People need to remember that they need to check them every day to make sure they are functioning properly,” Waite said. “Also, unless they come with a gauge, there is no way to easily monitor how much the horse is drinking.”
When choosing an automatic waterer, consider how many horses will be using it, whether you need a one-sided or two-sided fount, ease of cleaning, and ease of installation and repair.
Editor’s note: There’s nothing more satisfying than walking out to your field on a very cold morning (say, a -30 wind chill in Central Wyoming) and seeing your horses drinking fresh water that you didn’t have to carry! Heated automatic waterers are a great investment in your time as well as in your horses’ health!