Gear Horse Care Tips

3 Best Water Buckets for Horses (Stall, Heated, Travel)

cowboy carrying green water bucket to black horse
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Written by Natalie Gasper

What’s On Our Bucket List?

Watering your horse is so ingrained into your routine you might not even think about it anymore. Let’s dive into what makes for a good water bucket and the best ways to keep it clean.

Did you know horses drink between 5 and 15 gallons of water a day? For this reason, water buckets are an essential aspect of horse care.

It’s important to choose the right color and design to maximize water intake while minimizing mess. Studies show that horses prefer drinking from turquoise or light blue buckets. Buckets should be dumped every other day and cleaned weekly.

horse with tongue out and orange water bucket

Source: Canva

Water Bucket Basics

In a pinch, any container will do. Regardless, purchasing a water bucket for your horse is an important investment. They are made from durable materials and are easy to clean. Most buckets have features that make them easy to hang.

Plus, water buckets make it easy to monitor how much water your horse is drinking to make sure he gets enough.

Water Bucket Design Features to Consider

Water buckets have four main features to consider.

1) Optimal Size

A five-gallon bucket is the most common size. The average horse will drink one to three of these a day.

2) Design

Water buckets can be round or have a flat back. The flat-backed ones hang much better against walls and fences. They are also easier to carry!

3) Location

The bucket should hang just above your horse’s chest. This prevents them from stepping in it—and can help prevent manure and hay from getting in it.

Avoid hanging buckets near electric sources, especially electric fences!

4) Safety

Horses can hurt themselves on pretty much anything, including water buckets.

If you use a clip to attach the bucket, make sure it faces in so it can’t catch on your horse. Their lips can get caught in double-sided clips.

Be aware that your horse can get his tail stuck in a hanging bucket—either on the clip or where the metal arm attaches to the bucket.

hose filling blue water bucket

Source: Canva

Bucket Color

According to this study, done at the University of Atatürk in Turkey, horses do have color preferences when it comes to water buckets.

To maximize water intake, opt for a turquoise or light blue bucket.

Cleaning Horse Buckets

If your horse’s water isn’t clean, there’s a good chance he won’t drink it. Buckets should be dumped at least every other day (more if your horse keeps a dirty bucket) and cleaned once a week (or anytime manure gets in it). In other words, perhaps lots!

You can rinse a bucket and give it a quick scrub with a sponge or stiff scrub brush.

Avoid using anything that can scratch the inside of the bucket and leave tiny grooves (like wire brushes), as this makes it easier for mold, algae, and bacteria to grow.

Ballpark Pricing

Expect to pay between $20 and $40 for a 5-gallon water bucket.

pink bucket with water in it

Source: Canva

Top Three Water Buckets for Horses

Category Product Price Point * Key Features
Best for Stall Use Little Giant Flat Back 20 Quart Bucket $$ Teal, flat back, hanging notch
Best for Travel Professional’s Choice Hanging Bucket Holder $$ Fits any 5-gallon bucket, prevents scratches
Best Heated Bucket API Heated Bucket 20 Quart $$$$ Flat back, chew-proof cord

Best for Stall Use:

Little Giant Flat Back Plastic Animal Feed Bucket, 20 quarts

Research shows teal is a preferred bucket color for horses, making this 20-quart water bucket ideal.

Pros:
  • Made from polyethylene
  • 5-gallon
  • Flat back design for easy hanging

Cons:

  • The color may not be an exact match to the picture

Where to buy it: Amazon

Best for Travel:

Professional’s Choice Hanging Bucket Holder for 5 Gallon Bucket

When you’re on the go, you need a convenient way to give your horse access to water. This hanging bucket holder is the perfect solution.

PROS:
  • 600D polyester (very durable)
  • Fits any 5-gallon water bucket
  • Can hang from just about anywhere
  • Several color options

CONS:

  • Unless the attachment point is high, the bucket may hang lower than usual (not horse chest height)
  • Some horses may not like the smell

Where to buy it: Amazon

Best Heated Bucket:

API Heated Bucket 20 Quart

Winter watering has never been so easy with this heated bucket from API.

PROS:
  • Blue (encourages drinking)
  • Overheating protection (water won’t get too warm)
  • Very durable

CONS:

  • May only last 2-3 years
  • Shipping times might be longer

Where to buy it: Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What color water bucket do horses prefer?

Science has shown that horses prefer drinking from turquoise buckets. Light blue is a close second.

Q: What type of water tank is best for horses?

Most horse owners use a water trough. The best ones are both easy to clean and sturdy. Two popular materials are galvanized dipped metal and polyethylene.

Rubbermaid offers a range of durable water troughs, including a 150-gallon stock tank made from structural foam.

horse drinking from black water trough

Source: Canva

Q: How high should a horse water bucket be?

The rim of the bucket should be just above the chest. The exact height will vary based on the size of your horse (for example, a mini would need his bucket much lower than a draft horse).

Q: What is the best way to water a horse in a stall?

Automatic waterers are a convenient option if your horse doesn’t get them dirty with manure or hay. If the system breaks, however, your horse has no water.

Another convenient option is to use buckets with a hose system in each stall you can turn on and off (no more lugging heavy buckets or dragging a hose down the aisle). Of course, freezing damage is an expensive risk.

Q: Can a horse go overnight without water?

Dehydration can have some severe health consequences, including colic. Horses should always have access to fresh, clean water.

Q: How often should you change a horse’s water?

This depends on the horse. A horse who keeps a clean bucket would be fine with dumping every other day while some horses might need their buckets dumped multiple times a day. Water troughs should be topped off at least every other day.

Q: How often should horse water buckets be cleaned?

Water buckets, if dumped regularly, should be cleaned once a week. If a horse poops in the bucket, clean it immediately (don’t just rinse it out).

Q: How many buckets of water should a horse drink in a day?

Most horses drink anywhere from 5 to 15 gallons of water a day. If you use a standard 5-gallon bucket, your horse will drink one to three a day, more if they are working.

Parting Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for a long-lasting water bucket for a stall or a heated bucket to make those long winters easier, choosing a water bucket has never been simpler.

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About the author

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Nancy loves retraining off the track Thoroughbreds and working with her dogs!