Auto waterers and soft stall system
Like I have mentioned in my previous posts, we are building a new barn this year. I'm wondering, are the automatic waterers and soft stall systems worth the extra money? I will only be offering a few stalls at self care. So if you did self care, wouldn't you rather have an automatic waterer? As far as the soft stall system goes, it helped my older quarter horse A LOT when he stayed at a barn with them. But would people pay a little extra for these amenities? Hmmm.. :?
As far as the soft stalls go, they are nice, especially for horses who are stiff or sore. When I looked into stall flooring, the soft stall systems were not much more expensive than high cushion rubber mats. You will save on bedding with the soft stalls, so they may be worthwhile as long as they last well.
I think auto/heated waterers ARE worth it. Most of my day is spent cleaning and breaking ice on buckets in winter.
plus you are ensuring horse always has water in summer!
I hate automatic waterers! Unless you have some sort of meter on them to gauge how much water your horses are drinking, I would stay far far away from them.
I lost a horse to colic that was brought on by dehydration. Where he was boarded had automatic waterers and they weren't able to tell that he hadn't been drinking.
While they are great with the convenience of not having to fill up buckets etc, I would much prefer to fill up buckets and know that my horse was getting enough water than have to go through losing my horse like that again.
The system that I have found to work the best is to have a hose running to each stall with a valve to fill the buckets while they are hanging. That way it is as convenient as an auto waterer (no water hauling), easy to clean (just cleaning buckets) and you can monitor every horse's water intake. Just fill them up before they come in at night and at night check, with water outside they should be good :)
I do also like the soft stall, but a lot of places feel like if they have the soft stall then they dont need to bed the horses and they end up laying in their pee and poo :( One still has to bed enough in the soft stalls!
Auto waters make wonderful play toys for bored horses which result in flooded stalls.
They seem to become favorite places to poop.
Mixed feelings on auto waterers. My horse wouldn't drink from his for a while because the refill noise was scaring him. Thankfully I am a nosy horse momma and watched him. I taught him to drink from the auto waterer but provided him a bucket until I saw him drink from the automatic.
Automatics can be difficult to repair and can need more equipment to work (my current barn needed to install a pressure regulator for example). My old barn had the double bucket style one that would get clogged and flood. The lever style ones can turn into a toy - I know one horse who will stick his hoof into the lever one, make it flood THEN drink.
But buckets have their own issues too. Especially when it comes to heating them.
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I love our auto waterers but then I check them daily to make sure they are working and clean, they will freeze which means in very cold weather we end up using buckets anyway.
As far as not being able to tell how much water a horse has drank, I've never had a horse who didn't first show some other signs of being off such as not finishing hay, grain or acting sluggish. At the first sign of being off our horses would have their waterer turned off and switched to a bucket so that I can tell how much they are drinking.
I've never heard of Soft Stall, so I can't really comment on that, but I too have lost a horse to dehydration/impact colic.
She was at a self care barn, and I worked nights. I asked somebody else at the barn to toss her dinner in her stall. Usually she was let out every day, but it was going to be raining, and she didn't have a shelter, so she was inside for 48ish hours. She couldn't be saved. Nobody at the barn noticed until it was too late. They don't always show obvious signs.
Having a hose near by is great. If you get freezing temps though, you have to remember to shut them off & drain the lines. The barn I used to be at, one barn always froze, and so all winter the waterers were off. I bought heated buckets :)
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