Automatic Waterers/ hacks

I am looking into automatic waterers for my new barn.

Some qualities I am looking for are:

-Something that won’t freeze/is heated- I live in an area that will get below 0 F a few nights a year and the barn will not be heated.
-Measures that amount of water the horse drinks
-Adjustable. Is that even a thing? For example, one that you could be good for a horse, but also could be lowered if you move a pony into the stall?
-Easy to clean

If such a thing doesn’t exist, what are some watering hacks that you have used to make watering efficient/convenient?

Watering is my least favorite chore and I will forever be an incompetent waterer…I am always soaked when I am done, forget to turn the horse off, get the hose in a knot, etc.

Of course I can’t remember who, but there is a COTH member that ran pvc along the stall fronts, each stall had its own valve above their bucket. She would turn on the spigot then turn on whichever valve she wanted to fill. In the winter, you would pull the cap off the end of the line of pvc to let the water drain out so it didn’t freeze and crack. I’m probably explaining it very poorly but hopefully someone knows what or who I’m talking about who can describe the set up a little better 😂

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Nelson Auto waterers are AMAZING!!! You can turn off the water, remove the stainless steel bowl, clean it out, put it back, turn on the water. You also dig down about 8 ft? So that you can use the geothermal heat to keep it from freezing. My Best friend had them installed at his house and they were so awsome. No breaking ice in the winter. No draining hoses. We currently have JUG brand at the farm i am boarding at, which are ok, but i prefer the Nelson if i have a choice.


I do the same as Simkie. The muck tubs (regular in summer/ spring/ fall and heated in winter) are great since I can fill up once every 48 hours of them being inside. We bought an existing barn and plumbing/ running wiring is not an option inside.

I am hoping to get some Bar A Bar A (I think?) waterers for outside. They don’t require electricity which is a huge bonus. If / when building new we will have auto waterers in every stall and paddock. In my opinion/ experience, dumping/cleaning/filing waters is one of the most time consuming chores (stall cleaning/ rebedding #1, and sweeping is probably tied for #2 with water). Every single time I am standing there filing waters for 20 something minutes I think of all of the other things I could be doing.

The Bar Bar A ones are fantastic. They don’t require electricity and they do not freeze. The ones we have are low to the ground, so work easily for anything giant sized down to a mini. We have a few who play in them really quite extensively and haven’t had one break yet. They don’t measure how much the horse drinks. The last place I worked that had the Nelson ones, they broke all the time, you really couldn’t measure how much each horse was drinking (in gallons for example) and we had problems with the heaters randomly starting to overheat the water. They were less than 10 years old.


I haven’t seen the no freeze/drainable version of this described here, but was going to say, if you can’t swing the auto waters in the stall, the valve+little hose per stall is great. Still have to dump (+maybe chop a lil ice from) the bucket itself, which means still potential for soaking yourself (if you’re as watering-challenged as me) but no hose kinking/rolling/freezing/forgetting to deal with, so it’s still 993X better than the typical way. And you can monitor drinking and set different height buckets as normal. Just make sure both the hose and valve are well away from the lips of young, playful geldings…

If I could build a barn from brand new, I might want the auto waterers, but I’ll venture I’d prefer a frost free spigot every position where a 25 ft coil hose could reach, and an outlet every stall for heated buckets. I love heated buckets. their own thermostats…no ice…easy to switch/dump/scrub…and no questions at all if horse has been drinking. The coil hoses? I love em shorter, and with snap in/out connectors. So easy to hang for self draining when not long and heavy! I love the heated muck tubs too!!! just wasn’t smart enough to put outlets for them at each turnout. :frowning:

I love my Nelsons. Can install with a meter to monitor how much water horse is drinking. I keep a supply of parts on hand for repairs since moving parts wear out. Quick and easy to refill. Buried water line 8 feet down. And first winters piled manure / shavings on top of the line as the dirt settled. I also have a frost free spigot.

I have been in barns with the water line with short hoses to fill buckets. Nice idea. When it does not freeze. Any time you have on demand water sitting there you have to mitigate to avoid freezing. That means unhooking hose from frost free spigot every single use.

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I use the heated muck tubs in the stalls. SO much easier than heated buckets!!

100 gallon tanks for outside. Its rarely cold enough here to freeze those during the day…easier and cheaper to just break the ice there in the morning! The red K&H heaters are my fav for keeping troughs liquid during the rare cold spell.

I have Nelsons in all my fields and in the stalls in my main barn. I love them so much! They are such a time-saver. until you get them adjusted well, they can be a little finicky, but the good thing is that they are not complicated to learn to repair.

I also installed each one on a separate water line. It was more expensive to do originally, but if there is an issue, I can shut each Nelson down independently, work on it, then open the water line again so an issue with one does not affect any of the others. I have basically a row of shutoff valves labelled 1-5 that correspond with each stall.

it would be next to impossible to install in an existing barn, though, as you’d have to rip up the entire floor. we put the Nelsons in before/as we did the stalls and it was still an enormous project.

Also keep in mind a backup plan for power going out, as they won’t work then. I have a bunch of 5 gallon water tanks and also run water in 2 100g Rubbermaids if I anticipate a weather event.

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I have a Bar Bar A waterer outside and I LOVE IT. It does not measure the water consumption but it otherwise meets your requirements.


I have Drinking Posts. I would put them in my new barn, in a heartbeat- as long as I know a horse wouldn’t play with them and keep their stall wet. I have them in the field and wow, I don’t know how I lived without them. They are freeze-proof and ridiculously easy to install and clean, and they offer the horse a water source with a consistent temperature. Push the paddle once a day- waterers are checked.

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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.

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Simkie…can’t imagine the big muck tubs in my stalls! When I use them in run ins/ turn outs they NEVER stay as clean as my buckets…because they’re so heavy and cumbersome to dump and clean. Naw…I want the heated buckets in my stalls! I can unhook, dump, clean and re hang so much easier. (not to mention I dont have 16 x16 stalls either! ha!

After repeated terribly harsh never ending winters we moved south.


My stalls are 12x12. Tubs aren’t heavy or cumbersome to dump when they’re empty, and the horses drink them down nearly every night. I have them up on cinder blocks, maybe that keeps them cleaner than on the ground.

I wonder if we’re talking about different things? Because I have none of the problems you list :confused: Mine are the 16 gallon muck tubs. Maybe you have something larger?

I did heated buckets the first year. I’d hang two. They were nearly always empty in the morning, with thirsty horses. And the size meant I had to stay and supervise filling, which is the most boring and useless activity ever. With a tub, I can drop the hose in, and go do something else for the couple minutes it takes to fill, and come back. Much better!!

Your horses drink a ton more than mine. Only in the summer would mine ever drink two full buckets overnight. Even that is rare. Mine rarely finish one overnight in the winter (though I hang two). Mine do most of their drinking outside. When they’re in at night they really just sleep.

Mine drink well inside and out. I think that’s a good thing? 🤷”â™€ï¸

Regardless, I find tubs a whole hell of a lot easier than buckets for a laundry list of reasons. Would hate to go back!

For a small farmette like mine - 3 horses resident - the heated buckets are my solution.
I have 2 that are going into their 16th Midwest Winter & still working perfectly.
Biggest problem is rust scale from my well water & that is cosmetic.
My rear stall doors are open to outdoors 24/7, but facing East where prevailing winds are less likely.

Horses also have a 50gal plastic barrel trough just in front of the barn.
Kept liquid with a sinking de-icer.

I located my frostfree hydrant inside my barn & it froze just once when I did not shut it completely.
When I had to replace it - some 10yrs in - installer told me I did not need the heat tape & insulated wrap I’d been using.
Two Polar Vortex Winters later, he has been proved right.

I am too lazy to drain a hose reliably, so when temps go below 40F, I remove the hose from the hydrant & refill water bucket brigade style.
A couple trips from hydrant to stalls & done.

yeah…I agree with vxf111. no way on the planet my horse in his stall would drink a 16-20 gal. muck tub down to the bottom overnight! one hung bucket typically still has 1/4 left or at minimum 2 inches to go in the bottom even if I’m late that day. :slight_smile: do love my heated buckets and my little 25 ft. coily hoses. only undo the connectors /drape on a stall front hook…easy drain no mess no huge storage or lay out area need.

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