The practice of whitening buckets of water

It’s a great feeling when the stables have been cleaned and all the horses have been shelled, haystacked and watered. All the halters are hung outside the stalls, the aisles have been swept. It is a beautiful morning, neither cold nor hot. It’s okay. The birds are singing. There are no flies yet. There is an underlying antiseptic odor in the air. You take a breath and sigh. All is well in the world, at least inside your barn. Your hope

You have done everything possible to create a clean and healthy atmosphere for your horses. But have you done too much? Are you guilty of killing excessively? Horses are animals, remember. Yes, so do we, but that’s the problem. We have placed our human standards on the back of our horses, and it is rumored that we are doing no better.

When was it decided that we should routinely bleach our horse’s water buckets? I’m not talking about using a brush and just cleaning them well. I mean the practice of adding bleach to cleaning water and scrubbing like crazy. I have seen horsemen cleaning their buckets with such diligence; looks like a bicep / tricep workout. Why? Because we think we are killing germs. Horrible germs lurking in the water, for the same animals that graze on the ground, where dirt, insects, slugs and all kinds of “disgusting poop” live. The water is different, I can hear the diligent rider say and I agree. The water in most barns these days is unfortunately chlorinated. And yet, with or without chlorine, buckets of water still get dirty over time and smell bad. That being said, I can swear on the life of my horse that I have never had a scum so dirty and so strong that a simple click with a brush cannot alleviate it. So why oh why are we scrubbing them to death with bleach?

A barn that has a contagious disease is one thing. I am not downplaying conscientious attempts to radiate that disease. I’m talking about the loving riders and riders who expose their horses to bleach residue embedded in plastic buckets and rubberized water day after day, under the assumption that it is the right thing to do. It reminds me of the hand sanitizers that are so popular right now with our attempts to kill all contact bacteria, a practice now touted as possibly paving the way for even stronger bacteria, the super bugs.

Give your horse’s bucket of water a good cleaning at least once a week and even more often. Clean it daily if you like; just don’t use chlorine bleach unless chlorine bleach is really required. Just empty your horse’s water bucket and rinse with a brush and rinse. The horse is like fresh water. Make sure they have access to water at all times. Don’t count on the moisture in the grass when you take them out to the grass. I shudder with practices like that. Give them water. Give them fresh water. Give them endless water. It is the most important food in their lives. They can live without a bucket of water scrubbed with bleach. They cannot live without clean, fresh water.

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