We just solved a mystery. For years we couldn’t get Romeo to drink much in his stall. Our horses aren’t in their stalls every day so we weren’t too concerned. He also doesn’t rush to the trough when we let him out. Valentine has always been a big drinker, but Romeo doesn’t touch his water bucket. Of course, we provided fresh, clean water from the same source as the water trough which he uses. Horses are different, though, so we figured this is just one of those things. Then Mikki had an idea. She tried a different bucket. It worked! It seems this horse doesn’t like light-colored buckets. What a strange requirement! If you find one of your horses aren’t drinking much water in the stall, consider changing the bucket to one of a different color.
The mad rush is on to complete our horse farm projects before winter sets in. There is so much competing for our time in the fall. Festivals, leaf-viewing car trips, etc., not to mention the occasional rainy weekend where outside work isn’t pleasant. One of our projects today was bucket cleaning. This is much more pleasant to do when the weather is warm and the sun is shining. It’s an important task to keep horses healthy and to keep them drinking without worrying that their water is foul. It’s also surprisingly easy.
This was my small project today so I asked Mikki for advice (she usually does the bucket cleaning) and she recommended soap pads. I’ve used steel wool before, mostly for plugging holes around pipes that mice can get through, but didn’t realize what a great cleaning tool they could be. Especially the ones with build-in soap. Put a little water in the bucket, throw in a disposable soap pad and 2-3 minutes later I had a clean bucket. The only one it didn’t work on is an old bucket we don’t use for horses that we let sit too long. The algae or whatever that green junk is was so caked on that I might just replace it with a new bucket.
Do you use anything special in your bucket cleaning routine?
Don’t you? That’s why when we went to Tractor Supply last year and saw a product called Stock Tank Secret, we thought it was worth a try. It’s a little bag full of barley straw that you just drop in your water tank, trough or whatever. The company claims that barley straw has been used in the UK for hundreds of years to help keep livestock water clear. So the day after we got it, I scrubbed the bucket clean (Stock Tank Secret says you don’t need to clean it first, but ours was pretty gross) and dropped it in. Then our most important product reviewers ambled over for a drink.
First, they looked at us like we might have dropped poison in their water. Then they nudged the sack, then nudged each other as if to say, “No, you try it!” and looked at us again, this time as if perhaps we’d dropped a small animal carcass in their water. After several minutes of nudging, sipping and head-shaking, Valentine finally decided he was thirsty enough he’d have to just go for it. They both got a drink, albeit still suspiciously, and hung around the water cooler for quite a while. Unsurprisingly, when we came out about an hour later to check the tank, the suspicious item was on the ground a few feet away.
They finally got used to it and left it alone, but did it work? Not really. I emailed the makers of the product to ask for further instructions, and the actual owner emailed back with his phone number. I called him and had a very nice conversation with him, in which he gave me one of my favorite quotes to this day: “A horse is just an animal spending its day trying to kill itself.” Unrelated to the stock tank, but true nonetheless. Anyway, he diagnosed the problem, which was that I had put the water tank in the shade. It needs sun to work. So we moved it to a nice sunny spot, where we also did not get good results. But we were using an itty bitty (about 20 gal) tub, off-white in color. We upgraded to a 100-gallon stock tank but by then it was winter and we kind of forgot about the Stock Tank Secret.
Fast forward to this year. We’re on our second 100-gallon water tank – the first one cracked and therefore leaked like a sieve. It also turned green within days of cleaning, and wasn’t much fun to clean – big, deep, with a ridge about halfway up because the bottom half isn’t as wide as the top. Why are they made that way? I’m sure there’s a good reason – other than making it harder to clean – but I don’t know what it is. (Perhaps to keep the horses from kicking it – well, they still do.) Anyway, when we got the new tank, we decided to try the Stock Tank Secret again. We’ve been using it for about a month now.
So, does it work? Kind of. It stays pretty clear of algae, which is what you have to scrub off. The water still gets nasty pretty quickly, because horses are very messy drinkers. They dunk their dirty muzzles all the way in, and backwash like crazy. We still have to empty that big old thing at least once a week and put clean water in, but we don’t really have to scrub it, which is nice. All in all, it is worth the small investment.
The small stall buckets and the goat buckets, unfortunately, are too small to pop one of these in, though, and still require scrubbing. Pretty sure the horses would eat it out of there, anyway, the goats definitely would. When someone invents an anti-scrub product for those, I’m in.
Take a look at the picture below. We have one of those cool 110 gallon Rubbermaid water buckets and ours has an automatic filler with a float valve (like a toilet). The hose we’re using to keep this bucket full is looking compromised so I haven’t been leaving the water on all day in the heat. The picture below was taken after a hot day with the waterer turned off. You can see the water line near the top of the bucket. Those two horses of ours sure drink a lot of water! Just a reminder to make sure those buckets are full each day.
BTW, we love this bucket and the waterer. I’ll write about it someday and include some other pictures and tips on how to keep the water clean.
Take a look at this picture and tell me if you see anything wrong with it
That’s not feed in the feed bucket. Now I understand the science and physics of why it happened, but I just don’t know why any creature would allow itself to poop in their feed dish/bucket. I can understand it a little more with our goats but I guess I figured horses were a little, I don’t know…SMARTER. This was from Mikki’s fancy show horse, Valentine, by the way. My beautiful racehorse, Moonshine, who leaves dainty piles of manure in the corners for me, would never do such a thing as this.
Today was the coldest day yet in east Tennessee. Actually, there have been colder days since we’ve lived here but not since we’ve had horses. Lows at night are in the lower 20’s and we’ve had some wind. Although my Arizona butt hasn’t quite acclimated to winters that are actually cold, our horses seem to have adapted nicely. Both Moonshine and Valentine have thick fuzzy winter coats and despite our attempts to shelter them from the cold, they seem to prefer it to being stuck in the barn.
One thing I’m not familiar with is frozen water buckets. Yesterday and today both I’ve gone out to discover all of our animal water buckets had almost an inch of ice on top. I was expecting this but I’m not yet sure what to do about it. Most of the buckets aren’t near any power source so a bucket heater or bucket de-icer doesn’t seem like it would work for us. We could use an extension cord but that increases the possibility of a barn fire. I’m also concerned with our horses nibbling on the wires, though it seems like the heated buckets use steel wire wrapped cords to prevent nibbling. I saw a product called Thermo Bucket that uses a simple insulated float but it looks too thin to drink from. Maybe it’s just a bad picture. So we’re looking for a solution, mostly for in the barn stalls. The ice in the outside bucket I can break up effectively and it sits in the sun most of the day.
Because we baby our horses, the subject of horse blankets has come up, too. Mikki is interested in trying them but I’m skeptical. Besides yet another horse expense, I wonder if the blanket would stay on for very long. I can see Moonshine rolling in the dirt to get it off. Plus I wonder if it’s even needed. Here comes the old “horses in the wild don’t need that” argument. But it’s true. How many horse blankets do you see in those pictures of wild horses running in the Montana snow? None. Of course, horses in the wild probably don’t live as long as our pampered domesticated horses. But even when it was 26 degrees (F) outside, neither horse shivered or showed any signs of wanting to seek shelter. I did see Valentine galloping around more than usual. Maybe it was to warm up, maybe he just felt frisky. But no blankets for now.
In our barn, the outside stall windows are now closed for cold weather, though the ends of the barn remain open as we have no doors. We’re considering adding doors but it won’t be anytime soon.
Let me take a minute to say that I do realize 26 degrees isn’t that cold. Many, if not most of you live somewhere that has harsher winters than we experience in Tennessee. That whole “frozen tundra of the South” thing was a stretch, to be sure. It doesn’t get much colder than this except in the mountains.