Water Delivery Systems

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Water either comes from the ground or the sky.  It is then tapped into and poured into a container for our horses to drink.  Simple in concept, the different systems devised by humans to get this heavy liquid necessary for life to the horse are many.

Water treated using filters and additives such as chlorine can make it safe to drink or reduce odors. However, some horses drink more when the tank water is dirty.  I don’t know what the correct answer is, but I think it is true that moving water (creek, spring-fed, artesian well) or changed water (refreshed daily) is OK, while stagnant water is bad.  Dead animals in the water are harmful.  Some leave the fill hose or another solid object in the water to allow animals and insects to find an escape route.  Green growth on the tank wall in freshwater is not harmful as this keeps the water clean – as long as freshwater continues to enter the tank. Some even add fish to a large tank of water to maintain the health of the water. No harm seems to have come to horses drinking moving water with fish in it.

Winter adds another factor to drinking.  When I lived in upstate New York, where winter had temperatures below 0 F (-18 C), the buckets in the stalls became an ice cube.  Every day the ice was smashed out of the bucket or was placed in a warm tack room to melt it enough to remove the cube.  Outside, the stock tanks commonly had an electric heater that kept the water ice-free.

We discovered and used a propane heater to keep our tanks ice-free on our farm.  A large LP tank was delivered in the fall, filled throughout the winter and removed in the spring.  A metal boot-shaped and waterproof structure inserted into one end of the metal tank heated the water in the coldest weather.  It was about 6 inches (15cm) in diameter and about 3 feet (1m) tall.  Inside this structure was a burner and a pilot flame like you would see on any water heater.  A thermostat regulated when the flame was ignited or snuffed.  Not only was the water warmed, but the horses drank more water in winter than I had ever seen before using this heater.  As a vet, I have never seen any other farm with these heaters in all my years.  They were a little finicky, but they were excellent.

This gallery shows some of the many plumbing systems used to store, filter or move water.  Some are perfect anywhere, and some only where temperatures remain above freezing.  Below freezing adds complexity to systems.

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