We’re back into subzero temperatures; I got three! whole! days! of riding in last week when the temperatures came above single digits. It was pretty great.
Then we plunged back into the arctic abyss.
When it gets this cold – and by “this cold” I mean well below zero, double digits below zero, wind chills colder than -30 – there is quite simply no way to keep fresh, unfrozen water in front of a horse at all times unless you have a bucket heater. Bucket heaters and de-icers are strictly verboten at my barn, and I tend to agree with them. They make me incredibly nervous. I saw a barn fire once, and it remains one of the worst memories of my life.
For the most part, the horses adapt pretty well: barn staff keeps a very, very close eye on their consumption, and each horse has a rotating system of buckets so that they get fresh water 2-3x a day. The horses learn to drink their fill when they have water. They get soupy mashes on the regular when it’s going to be painfully cold.
That’s not to say I’m not doing all I can to increase Tristan’s water consumption. Lately, I’ve been staying an extra 30 minute or so, or going out when I’m not riding, and heating up four or five kettles full of boiling water in the tack room with the electric tea kettle. I top his bucket off with those to get the water up to lukewarm; it makes it more likely that he’ll drink deeply and less likely that it will freeze immediately. (And I do mean immediately – by the time you finish doing water in the barn, most of the buckets have skimmed over with ice already.)
On Friday night, I stepped up my game and bought a bucket water heater from Tractor Supply. A friend of mine has one and loves it. They’re designed not to de-ice, but really to heat the water up to boiling if left long enough.
So, the new system is to pull Tristan’s bucket from his stall and put the bucket heater in it for about 10-15 minutes. I stand next to the bucket and check it constantly while I’m doing so.