We as human beings have multiple and unending means of having a cool fresh drink. Go to the fridge, stop at the gas station, or carry a cooler with us full of ice and cold drinks. Take a moment to think about the fact that the only refreshments animals have, that are under our care, is the water we supply for them. There is the occasional rain or thunderstorms that freshen up their water troughs and wets down their bodies, but other than that they depend on us everyday for an essential nutrient – water. Yes, water is a nutrient which means they cannot survive without it. Of course this is something that we all know, but do we realize how much of a life line we are for our horses once we place them in a stall, small paddock or pasture, especially during the brutally hot months.
In the sweltering heat, we and our horses MUST KEEP HYDRATED. I don’t know about you, but when I am extremely thirsty, the very last thing I want to do is drink hot water or a hot soda or a hot juice drink. Well, when you have a fifty gallon or one hundred gallon or even a larger sized trough full of water and it is sitting in the hot sun all day, it can become warm or even hot. Now if you have just ridden your horse and he or she has been sweating profusely, you give them a bath, and do not ask them if they would like some fresh cool water while you are walking them off, then when you turn them out into their pasture, the only water they have to drink is warm or even hot water. This may be unappealing and there is a possibility that your horse may pass up on drinking and start eating. So now your horse is thirsty, may be standing in the sun while grazing and is sweating more. Horses know that later in the evening the water will get cooler. The problem is that in the sweltering heat, waiting hours to re-hydrate can be unhealthy. Dehydration is a serious problem. Humans and horses can become dizzy, disoriented, nauseous and even faint. Dehydration can lead into many other problems and even death. So, my point is that you can take a few extra steps in helping to keep your water troughs cool, clean and appealing.
First, be prepared to have a brush in hand and clean out your troughs as much as one, two or three times a week. Slime, backwash from the horses mouths after they have eaten their grain, bugs, and bird droppings, among other contaminates, are all things that happen on a daily basis. I first scrub all the walls and bottom of the trough as much as possible before I take out the water. I leave a little in the bottom and finish cleaning the tub or trough. Then rinse out the trough and fill it. Not so hard. Ok, nice sparkling tub for about one day, if you are lucky. The next day after I feed, I check all the tubs to see how cool they are from the evening. If all is well, I check the troughs again around noon time for coolness. If the tubs are hot, I take a siphon hose and siphon out either half or all of the water depending on how hot the day is supposed to be and how warm or hot the water is. Then of course, fill the tub to the desired amount. If you only have two horses in the field and you have a 100 gallon tub, you can probably fill it half way. Then after I feed up in the late afternoon or evening, I check the tubs for coolness again, and if they are not as cool as I would like, then I put the hose back in the bottom of the trough and then let the water run over the top of the trough for a little while. Believe it or not, horses appreciate it when you freshen up their water or clean the tubs. They always come over nosing around not to mention, get in the way, pull on your hair and clothes and grab the brush, and then start drinking as soon as the fresh water starts out of the hose. When I was at the racetrack, every time I put fresh water in a bucket, the horse would always come to drink. Properly hydrated horses will hold their weight better, carry a much brighter coat, and perform at a higher level. A horse that is dehydrated does not feel well, has a dull coat, may not be eating as well as usual and can become lethargic and listless.
Remember, horses usually drink after they have eaten so try to freshen up the water before they finish eating their grain.
These actions may seem so trivial but I can assure you that you never want to see a horse with heat exhaustion of which, dehydration is the first step in this direction. It is a horrible sight to see and they can expire in as little as ten minutes. If you try to put your troughs under a tree, you will have to deal with leaves in the water and a lot of dirt falls from trees too. Once you get into the habit of cleaning your troughs often and refreshing their water daily, this will be just another chore that you perform for the animals that you so dearly love. I would venture to say that horses that have fresh clean cool water on a daily basis, probably in my opinion, will drink at least twice as much water if not more. After you see how much more water your horses drink and how much better it helps them to feel in the heat, you won’t think twice about doing it any other way.