Depending on season, ambient temperature, the type of feed eaten (high-fiber diets composed largely of hay increase water consumption, while grazing lush pasture decreases water consumption), and the activities a horse engages in, he or she typically drinks 10 to 15 gallons of water per day. It goes without saying that horses require year ’round, ready access to drinking water. However, if their water is contaminated with algae, feed debris, or other muck they won’t drink as much as they should, which can quickly lead to dehydration and colic. So keep that water clean. Here are some ways to do it.
• Buy a used tennis racquet at a yard sale or used-a-bit shop. To open frozen water tanks, break the ice with your boot or a heavy object (we keep an old axe by our water tank) and dip out pieces using the racquet.
• Use a kitchen strainer, a fish net, or the head end of a pool cleaner to remove leaves and other floating debris from your horse tank.
• Decomposing carcasses in drinking water can cause botulism and in horses, botulism is usually fatal, so immediately empty and thoroughly clean contaminated receptacles using a stiff brush or pressure washer and a cleaning solution made of 1 part unscented chlorine bleach to 10 parts water.
• To help prevent drownings, float short, thin pieces of wood on the surface of your horse tank. That way birds and beasts that fall into the water can get out again.
• When algae is a problem, dump the tank and scrub it using unscented chlorine bleach solution and a long-handled toilet brush or a milk tank cleaning brush from the farm store. Or use baking soda paste made by adding a small amount of water to baking soda (buy it economically in bulk at your feed store) to scrub buckets and horse tanks.
• A power washer makes tank cleaning a breeze. Don’t have one? Load the tank in the bed of your truck and haul it to the car wash.
• Clean off crusted-on algae with a stiff-bristled toilet bowl brush, a putty knife, or metal sweat scraper. It works!
• To cut down on cleaning, try to keep debris out of horse tanks (and if it gets there, skim it off as soon as you can). Don’t place horse tanks under trees in the fall and feed hay and grain in an area away from the horse tank, so horses don’t dribble grain or dunk hay while drinking.
• Many horse owners think bleach solution is too harsh to use for cleaning tanks. Not so, says the University of Minnesota, as long as it’s used in a responsible manner. In their bulletin, “Cleaning Water and Tanks”, Marcia Hathaway, PhD says, “Tanks can be emptied, scrubbed clean, rinsed with a 10 % bleach solution, rinsed twice more with water, and then refilled for immediate use. Alternatively, bleach can be added to existing water in a tank.” She goes on to say that horses shouldn’t drink the water for 1 hour after treatment and 2 hours if the water is cold (less than 50 degrees F.). Only unscented bleach should be used. The publication contains this guide to how much bleach can be safely added:
Gallons of water to disinfect/amount of bleach needed
1 gallon = 2 drops
5 gallons = 11 drops
50 gallons = 1 3/4 teaspoons
100 gallons = 3 1/2 teaspoons
500 gallons = 6 tablespoons
+Produces water with about 2 parts per million of chlorine+
– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver