Horse keeps pawing his water tank - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 11-08-2019, 02:07 AM Thread Starter
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Horse keeps pawing his water tank

Hello all.

Just a few things about my horse before I get to my issue with him. I am not sure on his age right at this moment, he is about 5 or 6 anyway. His name is Max and he is a beautiful Clydesdale. He is a big baby, one of the best horses I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding.

His issue: He has started pawing at his water tank. We have the tank in an insulated wooden box for winter and he has broken some of the panels off the side and pulled some of the foam insulation out.

He has lots of water and they free feed on bales right now. He has 1 other horse and a donkey for companions, so he isn’t alone or wanting for food or water.

Our electric fence is still up and they have a shelter, so their pen is still quite large, double the normal size. I don’t know what his problem is.

Is he just bored? Attention seeking? Or does he just like to kick things with his front feet? It’s a new behaviour he developed, it’s been a few weeks now, so it’s a little alarming.

I don’t know what to do for him to make him feel better. I don’t know if a ride would help? I also don’t know if he would play with toys or a barrel or anything.

If someone has any suggestions or answers or even related stories that would be much appreciated .
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post #2 of 12 Old 11-08-2019, 02:39 AM
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Maybe just a habit of his. Had one horse that pawed at everything. Have one horse who paws at his water trough if it's empty. Old steel bath, so it makes a great noise!
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post #3 of 12 Old 11-08-2019, 03:07 AM Thread Starter
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That is possible. I wish he would kick a tree or something, it’s loud when we’re all trying to sleep haha.
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post #4 of 12 Old 11-08-2019, 03:55 PM
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Did you recently put in a tank heater or change the tank when this started? Sometimes it's due to anxiety, but I have seen horses do this if the water heater is shorting slightly, or if the plug isn't grounded properly. The horse needs to drink, but is expecting an unpleasant tingle when he does, so he gets anxious and paws. Horses can pick up on electric problems long before people can. When we noticed our horses pawing at the tank last winter, we figured something was up. We couldn't feel anything with the water shocking or anything, but once we got a new heater, the behavior stopped. One mare of mine years ago started doing this, and she had an abscessed tooth... I shudder to think how excruciating drinking cold water must have been if the water sloshed against that tooth!

If this is new, I'd look at something along those lines. Either he's uncomfortable somehow with the tank (smaller opening, water is a different temp, something is painful in his mouth and drinking makes it worse, he's being bullied off the water by another horse, heater or plug is having a problem, etc.)
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post #5 of 12 Old 11-08-2019, 04:01 PM
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We put boxes around all of our tanks too and I agree with Silver Maple check for a short or make the bigger. A horse wants to have its eyes above level when drinking so if the water level is low he may not want to drink
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post #6 of 12 Old 11-08-2019, 04:46 PM
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Only time my horse paws at water tank is if empty. Or tank heater is putting out current into water. We ground the water tank so no stray current is going through water. Had horses stop drinking do to stray current.

We did the box over tank with insulation,hole for horses to drink out of needs to be large enough. Forget how big we made it ,was quite a few years back.

Quit doing the insulated box horses would destroy it in a matter of weeks. They literally tore it apart chewed it up broke the plywood kicking it

Really didn't make much difference in electric bill anyway. So no longer bother with it. I use the sinking tank heaters heats water from bottom of tank, instead of just surface.

Out riding my horse.
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post #7 of 12 Old 11-08-2019, 04:54 PM
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If it's new, I would look for anything that has changed. My Pony likes to paw his water. I really noticed it when he was drinking out of the pond. My guess is it's some sort of instinct to make sure there isn't a crocodile or something in there. But he also paws when he has a bucket sometimes. Sometimes I also think he just does it because he's bored and making a mess is fun.
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post #8 of 12 Old 11-11-2019, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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I didn’t think about the heaters being the problem,

We did recently put in the tank heaters. He wasn’t kicking until then, except when the tanks were empty but that was just him demanding I fix it aha.

There’s 2 heaters in there right now, one that floats and one that sits at the bottom. I added 2 because the sinking one was having trouble keeping the whole tank thawed in mid winter there.

It could be that the 2 together are keeping the water warmer than they would like, or than it should be. I didn’t think of that.

And I didn’t notice him doing it last year but it could be that maybe we need new a new heater or need to check the plugs we’re using as well. I didn’t know horses could pick up on electrical currents, I hope if that’s the problem it isn’t hurting him.

I might need to unplug the heaters one at a time and see which is disturbing him. Could be that 2 heaters are way to much as well. I did that last year for my old girl just to be sure she always had water.
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post #9 of 12 Old 11-11-2019, 03:27 PM
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We have a submersible heater in a 300-gallon plastic/poly tank with no insulation and it stays thawed through the worst winter weather. Last year with the temps of -40 F and -70 windchill it had 1/4" of ice on the top if the wind was hitting it, but the horses pushed through that easily and the water itself wasn't cold down a few inches. I'd bet something is up with your heaters. Either they are shorting the water, or the horse just doesn't like the floating one near him while he drinks. A friend had a mare who would yank the floating heater out before she got a drink. Once they switched to one that sat on the bottom of the tank, the mare drank happily.


Tank heaters don't last forever. We go through one about every 3-4 years, and usually have a spare on-hand, as they tend to croak during the coldest part of the winter on a day the farm store is closed or sold out, and we'd rather not have 300 gallons of water frozen solid overnight. Check the tank a couple of times daily, and know how much your horses drink. If you see they aren't drinking one day, chances are it's the heater or the outlet and the horses are getting shocked or tingled.
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post #10 of 12 Old 11-11-2019, 10:52 PM Thread Starter
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I appreciate all the advice, very much so! I need to find a voltmeter (I think it is according to google anyway) and will test the water. My family has been a little unhelpful in this venture, they think he is just bored but, I’ll definitely watch them closely until I figure out what it is he is trying to tell me. He’s acting a little odd for it to be just boredom.

I’m not sure how old the heaters are either. So it very well may be them that have just finally went.
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