- Bottom Line Up Front
- My Top Choices at a Glance
- What are Horse Water Troughs?
- Why is Water So Important for Horses?
- How I Choose the Best Horse Trough
- The Best Horse Troughs on the Market
- The Best Galvanized Horse Troughs: Country Line Oval Galvanized Stock Tank
- Behlen Country Galvanized Round Stock Tank
- RDF Aluminum Trough
- Tarta Oval Galvanized Tank
- The Best Poly Horse Troughs: Tuff Stuff Oval Poly Tank
- High Country W-Series Water Tank
- Little Giant Oval Poly Tank
- Rubbermaid Structural Foam Stock Tank
- My Top Choice and Conclusion
I take care of horses for a living, and keeping them hydrated is one of the most vital aspects of my job. Horses drink lots of water, around 5-10 gallons per day, and they need a constant, clean, fresh supply to keep them in good health.
The best way to give water to horses is in a water trough, but choosing the correct one isn’t always easy. So, to help you make the right choice for you and your horse, I’ll tell you exactly how to find the best horse trough below.
Bottom Line Up Front
The most important thing to look for in a horse trough is durability. When it comes to watering my horses, I think the Rubbermaid structural foam stock tank is the best option on the market. This is one of the most popular horse water troughs in the USA, and I love it because it is super durable but light enough to move around if you need to.
My Top Choices at a Glance
Before we go into detail about the best things to look out for in a horse water trough, here’s a quick glance at my top choices:
- Rubbermaid – This is the best poly horse trough on the market and a bestseller in the equestrian world. I love these troughs because they’re tough and durable and can withstand harsh outdoor conditions.
- RDF Aluminum Trough – This is the best galvanized steel horse trough on the market. I love it because it’s lighter than most steel troughs, and is molded from a single aluminum sheet, so it’s super durable and won’t leak at the seams.
- High Country W-Series Water Tank – I love these poly horse water troughs from High Country. They’re made from durable, FDA-approved, recycled plastic and are super durable and come in a range of designs and colors.
What are Horse Water Troughs?
Horse water troughs are containers, usually made from galvanized steel, rubber, or plastic, and they come in many different shapes and sizes. Usually, you fill a trough up with a hose pipe, but some are automatic devices that use a ballcock system to replenish the water each time your horse drinks.
The main feature of a water trough is durability because horses may kick or chew them – they must also be stable and secure so horses can’t knock them over. Ideally, they should have a drainage hole for easy cleaning and no sharp edges that can injure your horse.
Using a trough is better than using buckets to give water to horses because you don’t have to fill them up as regularly. Also, troughs are larger and sturdier than buckets, so horses can’t knock them over or spoil the water. A water trough is the best way to supply horses with fresh, clean water.
Why is Water So Important for Horses?
Water is a vital life source for all animals – without it, they would die. Horses drink between 5 – 10 gallons of water each day – active horses and lactating horses tend to drink the most water, while overweight horses usually drink less. Horses generally drink less water in the winter and more in the summer when it’s hot.
A horse’s water intake also depends on its diet, and those who eat fresh, lush pasture generally drink less than those on a dry forage diet because they obtain lots of moisture from the grass. Horses can’t digest food properly without water and will become ill very quickly and can die if they go for more than 3-days without a drink.
Dehydration is bad for horses because the loss of electrolytes will affect their liver function – and here are the signs of a dehydrated horse:
- Drawn up flanks
- Higher heart rate
- Sunken eyes
- Dry nose and mouth
- Impact colic
- Dark and infrequent urine
You can also tell if your horse is dehydrated with a pinch test – when you pinch a part of your horse’s skin. If your horse is well hydrated, the skin will quickly ping back into place, but if your horse is dehydrated, the skin will stay raised and draw back slowly.
If the skin stays in a pinched position for more than 10 seconds, your horse is severely dehydrated, and you must seek veterinary advice immediately.
How I Choose the Best Horse Trough
Choosing a water trough isn’t always straightforward, and water is essential for a horse’s health, so you must make the correct choice. When I choose a water trough, the main things I consider are the size – depending on how many horses will use it, the material, and the design.
Below, I’ll tell you the essential things to look out for in a horse water trough.
The trough material is the first thing I consider when I buy a horse water trough – they usually come in metal or plastic, and each has its benefits:
- Metal – Metal tanks are usually made of galvanized steel or aluminum, so they’re tough and durable – they don’t break easily and will last for many years. Metal tanks can be heavy, so they’re not easy to move around and can be prone to rust and corrosion. In hot climates, metal tanks heat the water and make it prone to algae.
- Plastic – Plastic tanks are also known as polyethylene or poly tanks for short. Polyethylene tanks are lightweight, easy to clean and move around, and usually less expensive. The downside to poly troughs is unless they have UV protection, they can become brittle with sun exposure and may crack if horses are too rough with them. Poly horse troughs don’t conduct heat, so they keep the water cooler in the summer.
Horse water troughs are usually round, square or rectangular, and each has benefits for different situations:
- Square/ Rectangular Troughs – These are good for square outdoor paddocks, indoors in a barn, or anywhere there are straight edges or corners.
- Oval or Round Troughs – These are idea troughs for the center of a paddock or field, and the main benefit of round troughs is that several horses can drink from them at once because there’s more head space.
Another vital thing to consider when you buy a trough is the size, and you should choose a size depending on how many horses use it. If you have one or two horses, a small one will do, but if you have a large herd, you need to get a large trough.
To get a clearer idea about what size trough you need, take a look at this table:
|Number of Horse
|Ideal Trough Size
|15 – 20 gallons
|2 – 5
|50 – 150 gallons
|5 – 10
|150 – 300 gallons
|10 or more
|300 – 1000 gallons
Horse water troughs cost anywhere between 30 and 1000 dollars – depending on their size and material. The most economical water troughs are poly ones, and steel or aluminum ones are the most expensive. Beware of cheap metal troughs because they will rust quickly.
If you have a large herd in a permanent place, it’s worth investing in an expensive steel trough. If you’re looking for a temporary water solution, in the summer, for example, a cheaper poly trough is your best bet.
Ease of Use
Cleaning water troughs is a weekly chore, so you want one that’s easy to empty and clean. Make sure it has a drain hole, or you have to bail the water out with a sponge and buckets. Generally, poly troughs are easier to clean and maintain than metal ones.
A horse water trough needs to be practical, so look for features which will make your life easier, such as handles or a lightweight design if you intend to move it around.
Some water troughs come with extra features, such as an automatic watering system which refills each time your horse drinks. Automatic troughs can save you a lot of time refilling water containers, especially if you have a large herd. If you live in a cold climate, look for insulated or heated troughs to keep water ice-free in winter.
The Best Horse Troughs on the Market
Choosing a horse water trough isn’t straightforward because there are many different brands and styles available. So, to save you time trawling through the internet, I’ve listed the best horse troughs on the market below.
The Best Galvanized Horse Troughs: Country Line Oval Galvanized Stock Tank
This Galvanized steel stock tank from Country Line is made in the USA and is durable, rust resistant, and will withstand harsh outdoor conditions. It measures 2x4x2 feet, weighs 46lb, and has a 100-gallon capacity, so it is ideal for a small herd of horses.
I love this tank because it’s smooth and round, with no sharp edges, and has a zinc finish for extra durability. It has a drain plug for easy draining and cleaning and comes with a 1-year warranty. Country Line stock tanks come in many sizes, including an extra large, 700-gallon tank – ideal for large herds.
- It’s durable, long-lasting, and rust resistant.
- It comes with a 1-year warranty.
- It’s heavy, so it’s not easy to move it around.
Behlen Country Galvanized Round Stock Tank
Behlen is a leading brand in ranching equipment, and they create high-quality, durable products designed specifically for livestock. This round galvanized stock tank is zinc coated for durability and has a 78-gallon capacity. It comes with a rubber drain plug and is rust-resistant and long-lasting.
I love this trough because it’s super sturdy with a heavy bottom, corrugated sides, and a reinforced smooth steel tube top for extra strength and to protect horses when they drink. This sturdy horse trough measures 32.5 inches by 23.5 and weighs 35.8lb.
- It’s sturdy and long-lasting
- It comes with a 1-year warranty.
- It’s heavy and not easy to move around.
RDF Aluminum Trough
This aluminum trough from RDF is Made in Oregon, USA, and comes in several sizes, from 200 gallons to 1,300 gallons, so it’s ideal for watering a large herd. RDF can also create custom troughs to suit your exact needs.
I love this trough because compared to galvanized steel, it’s lightweight and is molded from one piece, so there’s no chance of it leaking through the seams. RDF aluminum troughs are weather and rust resistant, have reinforced corners and edges for extra stability, and have plenty of optional extras such as a water escape ramp and water collection devices.
- RDF offers a custom design service.
- They have a size range from 200 – 1300 gallons, so they’re one of the largest troughs on the market.
- It’s one of the most expensive troughs on the market.
Tarta Oval Galvanized Tank
Tarter is an American brand that produces high-quality stock tanks here in the USA. The tank is 53 inches long, 13 inches high, and 23 inches wide with a 40-gallon capacity and weighs 30lb.
I like this oval trough from Tarta because it’s round at the ends but has long straight sides, so it lines up easily along a fence or wall. It’s rust-resistant and smooth with no sharp edges and drains with a side tap. You can also buy a stand separately if you need to raise the trough from the ground.
- It has a long, oval shape and fits neatly against a wall or fence.
- It’s durable and rust-resistant.
- It’s small and not suitable for a large herd.
The Best Poly Horse Troughs: Tuff Stuff Oval Poly Tank
This poly water trough from Tuff Stuff comes in 15, 18, 40, 110, and 140 gallons, so it is ideal for individual horses or small herds. It’s stable and secure with smooth edges and comes in a dull, matte finish.
What I like most about this trough is that it’s made from 100 percent recycled LDPE flexible plastic which feels softer than standard poly, almost like rubber. It’s also impact and UV resistant, so it won’t crack or break easily. The trough comes with or without a drain hole, so make sure you choose the correct option for your needs when you purchase it.
- It’s made from recycled material.
- It comes in a range of sizes.
- It doesn’t come with a drain hole as standard – you have to choose the drain hole option
- Some reviews say it attracts algae.
High Country W-Series Water Tank
High Country W-Series poly troughs are made from high-quality, FDA-approved, UV and impact-resistant poly and molded from a single piece so they won’t crack or leak. Each trough has a 1 -¼ leak-proof aluminum drain hole with a durable poly plug which won’t rust or rot.
I love this poly trough because it’s lightweight with smooth, round edges. It comes in a selection of pretty colors and is easy to clean. It’s also available in a range of sizes from 15 gallons to 700 gallons and comes with a 5-year warranty.
- It’s made from FDA-approved, UV and impact-resistant poly
- It has a 5-year warranty.
- They feel a bit thin and flimsy – but are durable.
Little Giant Oval Poly Tank
Little Giant is a sub-company of Miller Manufacturing – producers of high-quality ranch equipment since 1941. The Little Giant oval trough is available in sizes 15 to 150 gallons and is made from durable molded polyresin, so it won’t warp, leak or crack.
The thing I love the most about this trough is that it has a smooth, molded rim so you can move it around effortlessly, and it’s easy to clean. However, there’s no drain plug for the smaller troughs, up to 40 gallons, but you can buy a separate kit to add one.
- It’s long-lasting and durable.
- It’s easy to clean.
- It’s available in several sizes – 15 to 150 gallons.
- The smaller sizes don’t come with a drain plug.
Rubbermaid Structural Foam Stock Tank
Rubbermaid stock tanks have been around since 1968 – they’re a trusted brand, and their troughs are one of the most popular among horse owners here in the USA. These tanks are constructed with molded polythene and don’t have seams, so won’t crack or leak and are seriously durable against horse hooves and teeth.
What I love the most about these troughs is that they’re deep, strong, stable, and weather resistant. They have an oversized drain, so they drain fast for easy cleaning and are available in 50, 100, 150 and 300 gallons. Rubbermaid troughs have plenty of optional extras, such as a drain hole kit or an anti-siphon float valve for automatic watering.
- Rubbermaid is one of the most popular horse water trough brands in the USA.
- It’s durable and long-lasting.
- They’re not suitable for metal add-ons such as a heater or water valve stop. You must use ones specially designed for Rubbermaid troughs.
Answer: On average, a horse will drink between 5 and 10 gallons of water per day, and the intake will increase depending on their diet, health, and activity. Active and lactating horses can drink more than double the average.
Horses who eat fresh pasture will generally drink less water than dry forage-fed horses because they get a lot of water from the grass. Horses will also generally drink more water in the summer because they lose a lot of moisture through sweating.
Answer: The best way to keep algae out of a horse trough is to clean it regularly, around once a week, and keep it in a shady place; algae thrive in warm water and sunlight. Some owners put fish in their water tanks because they will eat the algae and keep the water fresh and clean.
You can also put a few drops of bleach in the tank to stop algae from growing. You should dilute 2-3 ounces of bleach per 50 gallons and never put bleach in the water if you have fish.
Answer: A water trough should be big enough to hold at least 15 gallons of water per horse per day. If you have 1 or 2 horses in a small paddock, they can get by with a small trough of around 50 gallons.
If you have 3 to 5 horses, you must give them a medium trough of 100 – 150 gallons. For a large herd, between 5 and 10 horses, you need a large 300-plus gallon tank.
My Top Choice and Conclusion
When it comes to choosing the best horse water trough on the market, I highly recommend the Rubbermaid poly trough. This is a tried and tested horse trough – favored by horse owners throughout the USA. It’s versatile, reasonably lightweight, super durable, and a fantastic investment if you want a reliable water tank for years to come.
Providing horses with fresh, clean water is an essential part of any horse care routine. I find the best way to keep horses hydrated is with a horse trough because it can hold large amounts of water, keep the water clean and prevent wastage because horses can’t knock them over.
Choose a trough size depending on how many horses will use it, and make sure it’s designed for equines or stock animals.
- Equinews Editor Ony. “Horsekeeping Tips: Keep Waterers Clean for Horse Health.” Kentucky Equine Research, 24 Aug. 2021, ker.com/equinews/horsekeeping-tips-keep-waterers-clean-horse-health.
- Petitepyromaniac. “Best Water Troughs?” The Horse Forum, 8 June 2011, www.horseforum.com/threads/best-water-troughs.88495.
- Staff, GoToTanks. “Plastic vs. Metal Water Troughs | Go To Tanks Blog.” Go To Tanks, 8 June 2019, gototanks.com/water-troughs/plastic-vs-metal-water-trough.html.
- Swinker, Ann. “How Much Drinking Water Does Your Horse Need?” Penn State Extension, 24 Sept. 2020, extension.psu.edu/how-much-drinking-water-does-your-horse-need#:%7E:text=in%20a%20day%3F-,The%20average%20horse%20will%20intake%205%20to%2010%20gallons%20of,to%203%20or%206%20days.
- Thunes, Clair, Ph.D. “Heated Water Trough Safety.” The Horse, 12 Nov. 2021, thehorse.com/137183/heated-water-trough-safety.
- —. “Keeping Water Troughs Thawed With or Without a Heater.” The Horse, 8 Jan. 2021, thehorse.com/137146/keeping-water-troughs-thawed-with-or-without-a-heater.