The smartest thing the BO has done in 20 years since I met her is put 7 heated Nelsons outside, maybe 15 years ago. Every horse has access, the stalled horses in the paddocks and the barn herds and outside boarders. She didn’t plan for them when she built the barn. What is kind of dumb is that everyone does the water buckets with morning chores. That gives them a chance to cool off and start to freeze when the stalled horses come in. I did a lot of chores early on, managing heaters and extension cords, pounding ice, dragging hoses all over the place, loading buckets in the gator. Hoses had to be kept in the cellar way, the only warm spot. The Nelsons are incredibly reliable and are stainless steel. Sometimes the bowl has to be adjusted to fill all the way. It’s not that difficult. They kick the sides if the water isn’t working and wait patiently. No damage to the unit. There are parts that need to be replaced from time to time. DH has parts on hand and if anything quits, including the heater, he pulls it all apart and replaces everything.
They have never frozen even in persistent cold when the high is zero for days. Everything was installed well below the frost line. They are on their own dug well and the entire setup has a generator hookup. My horse is now 26 and I want him outside as long as he is okay. It’s a relief that I don’t have to worry about access to water and it is at a comfortable temperature. They have free choice round bales and he gets some grain after I ride.
We had one problem with stray current. The current was measured and it was a very tiny reading. I called Nelson and they were extremely helpful. He emailed a lot of information and suggested looking at Wisconsin’s regulations - their cattle standards are very detailed because cows stop drinking if they have been shocked. Horses react to the tiniest zap. Nelson suggested getting the electric company out to check all of their equipment. They were there the next day and checked everything they could. The breaker panels and all sorts of wiring and junction boxes were checked. Also all of the electric fencing. Maybe cable TV. BO put them on a tub, which she left out there for several weeks. They all checked the waterer before going to the tub. They had no problems going back to the waterer. We never figured out where the current came from, but Nelson suggested adding a long grounding rod pounded in deep and attached to the unit. No more problems. If you install them make sure to ground them well.
I’m tempted to shut the whole place down before the January thaw. How else would you teach the barn-rat teenagers about how much work it is to take care of horses? No waterers, no gator. Pick stalls into wheelbarrows and dump the poop all the way out on the poop pile. Pound ice. Check the heaters. Drag the hoses and hook them up to the closest functioning spigot. Suffer in silence.