Do you feel like you’re fighting a never ending battle against the algae that takes over your horse’s water trough during the summer? You’re not alone. The summer heat can make algae blossom – seemingly overnight – in even the cleanest of troughs. Here are some strategies to help you win the war.


If at all possible, position large water troughs out of direct sunlight, since the sun will only encourage faster algae growth. Putting troughs beneath an overhang is ideal, and if that’s not available, then try to position them against an existing barn or shed where they’ll be in shade at least part of the day. Keep a pool skimmer handy, and clean the trough of debris like fallen leaves and bits of hay on a daily basis.

You can put apple cider vinegar into the water to help inhibit algae growth, but introduce it gradually so that the different taste doesn’t make your horses reluctant to drink. Another option for large tanks is to introduce goldfish, since the fish will feed off of the algae and help to keep the tank from being overrun. Be aware, though, that some horses like to play with the fish, so this decision will depend entirely on your setup. Additional materials which slow algae growth, such as barley bags and “trough tablets,” are available at local feed and grain stores.

Tools of the Trade

When it comes to cleaning the trough, equip yourself with the right tools to make the job easier, like stiff scrub brushes with long handles. Metal scouring pads (typically used for dish cleaning) are great for cleaning hard-to-get-to ridges and corners, and putty knives can quickly scrape algae off of the side of the trough.

Before cleaning, dump any existing water out of the trough. Sprinkle a layer of baking soda over the areas to be cleaned, and let it sit for twenty or so minutes. Then get to work scrubbing the trough – vinegar can also help to rid the trough of stubborn algae. If you have a power washer handy, it can make the job much easier, but if not, elbow grease will also produce a clean trough. Remember to rinse it well, especially if you’ve used baking soda and vinegar.

Clean Often

Remember, the more often you clean the trough, the easier the job will be the next time. During the hottest days of summer, it might be best to only fill the trough halfway up (providing that it still supplies enough water for all of your horses). With less water in the trough, cleaning it more frequently is easier, and you won’t have so much water to empty. As the temperatures cool down at the end of the summer, you can fill the trough more and clean it a bit less often.

A Note About Automatic Waterers

If you have automatic waterers at your barn, be sure to check these on a daily basis to make sure that they’re functioning, and clean them out every few days as well. Keep the water clean and appealing to horses, to encourage them to drink, especially throughout the hot summer months.

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