Update: Check out how the insulator fared during the 2014 polar freeze here!
As many of you should already know, hydration for horses is very important whether it’s the hottest day of the summer or the coldest day of the winter. In addition to providing my horses with salt licks and electrolytes, I decided to try getting them insulated water bucket covers so that their water would be less likely to freeze on the below freezing weather we tend to get during the winter months. To me, this is a safer option to heated water buckets because there is no fire hazard related to having an insulated bucket cover. My barn is an older build, so I am not entirely comfortable having an electrically powered heating object in my horse’s stall 24/7. I purchased this because I felt it would give me peace of mind – that my horses’ water wasn’t freezing and that would be possible without creating a potentially deadly hazard.
I purchased one for my pony and one for my horse. They each have two water buckets in their stalls, but they tend to favor one bucket over the other, so I put the cover on the water bucket they each favored. Overall, it was pretty easy to put on as long as you kept track of what velcroed to what. I believe this was advertised for round water buckets, but they also fit the flat back ones that my horse and pony have.
The weather wasn’t too cold the first few days the covers were on, so I wasn’t able to really test whether the covers were doing their job. However, on Thanksgiving, I arrived at the barn to find this in the aisle way next to my horse’s stall.
Yep, my horse had completely destroyed his bucket cover. After 3 days. He is 4, so I guess I should have known this wouldn’t last very long, but this cover was also advertised as being made of 600-denier fabric, which is the same stuff that some blankets are made out of, so I thought it would be pretty durable. After all, it might be in a stall with a stall-bound, and potentially bored, horse.
As a complete compliment to SmartPak’s customer service, I emailed them about the bucket cover, and they kindly offered me store credit for the purchase price of the bucket cover. I wasn’t too keen on replacing it with a new one because I figured it would meet the same fate.
So one down, one left.
Finally, meteorologists were predicting a bitter cold spell. I’m not talking 20 degree weather – I’m talking single digit, potentially negative digit cold weather. I hate cold weather, and winter in general, but I was excited to see how my pony’s water bucket held up considering it had a fantastic new insulator on it.
I sent a message to my barn manager asking whether he had noticed if my pony’s water had frozen yesterday (January 3, 2014) after the bitter cold and snow storm we had. This was my barn manager’s response:
Same, but the ice says thanks for the coat.
I did get a good laugh, but I was disappointed that the bucket cover hadn’t done it’s job, especially since this is the type of weather that really freezes stall water. I checked it out for myself yesterday evening, and while the ice was not as thick as usual for single digit weather, it still had frozen. However, if I had to choose between thick ice that my pony cannot break through and thin ice that he can break through, I would definitely choose the thin ice. But to be perfectly candid, my pony’s water experienced the exact same icing that my horse’s did, and he didn’t even have a bucket insulator because he decided his looked tasty!
I visited the barn again today – temperatures last night were in the single and negative digits, and it didn’t get above 24 degrees today. My pony’s water in his covered bucket was thicker ice, even though it had been emptied and refilled the night before. In fact, it looked like he had not even touched that bucket all day and/or night because it was still topped off. His uninsulated bucket had thinner ice than the insulated one!
The Short Story: I don’t think this bucket insulator is good for weather below 20 degrees. While the ice was relatively thin, that thin ice trend did not hold up well, even if the bucket had been emptied and refilled. In my opinion, the insulator works best in 20 degree weather and up. Thankfully, we do not have that many days of single digit and negative digit temperatures, but it would be nice to know I had something that would keep my pony’s water from freezing in the event that those temperatures decided to visit. I also would not recommend this in a stall with playful horses or horses that get bored easily, as can be seen from the damage my horse did to his. It was not as durable as I would’ve liked. But, as usual, SmartPak does get an A+ for excellent customer service. This item is no longer available on SmartPak’s website, but maybe it will be available again next fall if you are interested in purchasing one for your horse or pony.