Q: Do horses need water in the paddock?
A: All horses need water in the paddock, even if they are only out for a couple of hours, and even in winter. Horses must have 24/7 access to water – they do not drink when we would like them to, hence, even if they have had access to water all night, they may not have drunk anything, instead saving their thirst for the paddock! Water deprivation is a serious welfare concern.
One of the major considerations when it comes to water sources in the paddock is that they need regular checking. If buckets, troughs or other containers are used, they must be cleaned frequently. Some algal growth in buckets is normal and unavoidable, but it is important to remember that algae grows fast in warm weather, such as in our climate here in South Africa, and that it can therefore contaminate the water in just a few hours.
So don’t panic if you see algae in the bucket when collecting your horse, as it may only have been present a couple of hours, but do make sure you remove it when you find it! Not only is algae hazardous, as it may deter your horse from drinking, but some types of algae can in fact become toxic and therefore cause serious harm to your horse if ingested. Water must be changed every day and the bucket rinsed out, but you should be giving your buckets a proper clean at least once every week anyway. In the summer you may need to up the frequency of the cleaning regime to twice or even three times per week. To clean a bucket properly, use thick-bristled brushes and natural cleaning agents like apple cider vinegar. Stay away from domestic products like bleach – unless you are diluting them properly and ensuring that the buckets are thoroughly rinsed after they have been used.
Unfortunately, horses have become very unwell because buckets containing chemical domestic cleaning products have not been thoroughly rinsed out before being refilled. If you are unable to do the cleaning yourself, it is recommended that you stick with natural products.