Stray voltage? Water trough issue...this one is a mystery!

Okay, this is an odd one. I have a 50 gallon rubbermaid tank with a floating de-icer. Trough is set on the fence line, fencing is electric. Trough doesn’t make contact with the electric fencing. Heater is only a couple weeks old. Two of the three horses drink out of the trough with zero issues.

However, I watched my other horse stand at the trough for about half an hour today debating if he wanted a drink or not. Would get close with his nose, then pull away, would paw in front of the trough, would stick his nose in, pull it out, etc. I finally brought him out a bucket, and he gulped down the entire thing.

This horse is sensitive in general…he flips out if he gets a static shock when I pull his blanket and he spooks hard if the electric fence is ticking anywhere. So, my initial thought was that he maybe gets scared of the noise the heater makes? Or could there be the slightest bit of stray voltage that he’s sensitive to but it’s not affecting the others?

Another thing to note, all of my horses have a heated and a regular bucket in their stalls, and this horse has never once drank out of his heated bucket either.

I ended up pulling out the heater and turned off the fence today just in case…could voltage from the fence be affecting the water?

He may be remembering a shock from a past heater, not getting a shock from this one?

Yes, voltage from the fence definitely can be energizing the water, or the heater could be faulty. A voltage tester could help you see if there’s anything there. But sometimes those suspicious ones really hold grudges from past surprises.


Oh! Forgot to mention, I watched him get a big drink from this trough yesterday morning when I turned him out! We have snow melting today, so the ground is wet…could that maybe have something to do with it?!

Sure, when the ground is really wet, the horses are really grounded, and current can also stray more.

But if he doesn’t drink from his heated bucket in the barn, either, he may just be really suspicious of heated sources.

Sometimes grounding the tank itself can be a solution, or insulating it from the ground. Sometimes you need to get an electrician out. Stray voltage can be a really challenging issue to suss out.

But with all the other horses not bothered, and this horse unwilling to drink from a heated source in a totally different environment, too, I’d be more inclined to think he’s been shocked in the past and just unwilling to try again. Not sure how you CAN get him drinking from heated sources in that case, that’s a tough one!

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We had an issue like this, a non-drinking horse among 3 others who did drink from the same tank. We did not even have the tank heater plugged in while the horses could get drinks!

Nothing seemed to work in getting her to drink. She always tested the water with her whiskers, WANTED to drink but was getting shocked!

I finally moved the tank, decided that there was electricity leaking from the electric fence into the ground which was in a low, wet spot.

I bought some regular rubber mats, put them edge to edge in another location. Tank is on the mats beside the fence for easy filling. Enough mats so horse has to stand on them with all 4 feet to get a drink. My tanks are in an insulated box with the sinker heater under the half-tank cover. This makes a smaller surface, target area to drink from, to center on the mats. But having enough mats, to prevent horse standing on any dirt, is key in preventing grounding to get shocked.

This method has worked well the last 2 years. Horse drinks fine out of the insulated tanks now. I guess her buddies were just more determined to get drinks than she was. They all have insulated bucket heaters in the stall, no heated buckets. The buckets stay pretty clear even in very cold weather, no chance of getting shocked. My holders are what Cashman sells, we really like them.

we do not even use a heater and we have one horse that prefers to drink from His bucket set beside the 100 gallon Rubbermaid tank (and the three miniatures all will stand on their tiptoes to drink out of the Real Horse water tank whereas the small low sided 50 gallon tanks are now pretty much used to feed hay in.

I really think these guys plot against us to see who can make us do something strange and unusual then laugh about the wager later

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@goodhors I like the rubber mat idea, I may just do that. He drank out of the trough several times yesterday, but I had the fence turned off and the heater wasn’t in the tank. I did pull it further away from the fence as well. I guess I could experiment today and see if he’ll drink with the fence turned on, then I would know if it was the heater or fence.