Midwest Horse Welfare Foundation, Inc. ----Discussion Forum

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Jane J
Hi, I have had a Franklin auto waterer for the past 2 Winters and it has frozen up on me numerous times and this year it has already fronzen up already!!  The second winter I had it the heating element was dead already and had to be replaced by the plumbers that installed it . Long story short .. I need to get a new auto waterer and wondered what brand name some found dependable for non freezing in our climate that gets below 0 many times a season and who is a good installer in central WI?  I want to try something new compared to a Franklin and an installer some recommend. The plumbers that installed it didin't bother telling me that there was a valve leaking in it from the time it was brand new and they just patched it a bit so that is part of the problelm. Any suggestions?  thanks
mel d

The Ritchie by the main barn up here has never frozen and we get way below zero.


Dont know all the styles they offer, but I love my Nelson.  It was already installed at my property when we purchased it, and we have been using it for 16 years.  It has only frozen up once, and that was because a part was broken.  Has worked through plenty of sub zero temps and wind chillls.  Very dependable.

Scott: MHWF

Nelson is the Cadillac of waterers, but I am not sure they have one that is two sided or not.


Ours have never frozen up. I cannot remember the name brand, but they are blue and we got them at the farm supply store in Pittsville.

Donna R

We installed a Ritchie two sided waterer in September.  We have been told that the same company makes the components to the Nelson waterers.  The main difference is Nelson's stainless steel construction and Ritchie's polyethylene construction.  We found an installer out of Clinton, WI is why we chose the Ritchie over the Nelson.  We love everything about it.  We can't attest to how it holds up in sub zero temps yet.  We have done a lot of research though.  I don't think we are going to be disappointed.

Proper installation is the key. I had problems with a Nelson but it wasn't set up right. Same with a Richie a friend put in. They all need to be carefully insulated and mounted, a lot of thought should be put into where it's placed....some horses love to play in the water, splashing and dunking hay making a mess. Some also can be bullies and make it difficult for the wimps to get to the water. Auto waterers are wonderful but you need to really pay attention that every horse is drinking, (it's not like a stock tank that you can see the water level change) winter is impaction colic time, water critical.
Currently I'm trying a timer on the heater in my stock tank, yes it has a thermostat but with the timer set to rotate off/on every 4 to 6 hours it still stays open and the horses are drinking the same amount. Anyone else using a timer?? I first heard about timers used to allow multiple heaters on one circuit, only one would be on at a time so the circuit would not be overloaded. Made sense, no/yes??

Karla Joy

I think I have the same brand as MHWF. It is blue and says "Lil Springs" on it. However, I don't think that is the brand name I think it if the Model name. It was here when we bought the place and we have been here for six years with no problem except to replace the heater which was available at Farm & Fleet for $23.00.


We had a Franklin that also froze up. We changed to a Ritchie two sided waterer a few years ago and haven't had any problems since. We did lay a cement slab before installing so it was level.

We just had to replace two floats but otherwise it has been good.

We put our stock tanks w/heaters in insulated boxes that my husband made. The boxes have insulated covers so that when the horses come in at night we can close them up which saves quite a bit on our electric bill.
Faith - do you have pictures of your cover?  I've thought of doing the same thing but wondered about being able to clean the tank.  I usually scrub mine once a week in the winter.  (sorry for the sort of hi-jack!)
We have had our auto waterers in for over 2 winters now and love them. They are Fleet Farms brand, they are the later model that is not the plastic. They were considerably cheaper then Ritchie or Nelsons but our family has a Ritchie and has never had an issue in years, so it really depends on what you can afford. We also put insulated boxes on our waterers in the winter for added protection.
Sharon Potter
I'm a huge fan of the Nelsons, and have one that is shared by two pastures. It's installed in a narrow gap between two posts, with fence rails like normal above it to block the upper part of the gap.
I've been using Nelsons for over 20 years (over 25 of them at three different farms) and in all that time, have had to replace one heating element, which Nelson overnighted.
My neighbor just installed one last year, and loves it. They are the best out there...but the installation *has* to follow the directions...no shortcuts.

Got a question......Can anyone give me an estimate on what it would cost to install an automatic waterer?

Jane Liess
I have one that I think is similar to the one at MHWF; it's made by Miraco and I believe it is the 3100 model.


I've had it for 11 years without problems other than replacing the heater a few times (really easy to do yourself).  I keep a spare heater on hand just in case (they always seem to fail in the coldest weather).  As Karla Joy said, the heaters are available at Farm and Fleet for ~$20 (if you buy them on sale).  If the water level is too high, mine will freeze up if it's really cold (-20 or so), but it's easy to lower the water level by putting a water-filled bottle in the tank.  I am in love with mine.  Good luck!
Jenni O.

We have had good luck with our Miraco for the past 2 years-yes, they are the blue ones.  Kind of a pain to clean in cold weather bc you have to get your hands in the cold water to do it, but I try to do it before the super-cold snap hits, and wear rubber gloves. 

Scott Bayerl: MHWF

I truly don't think one type of waterer is more apt to freeze up over another, at least not from all the models I have seen. What makes the difference is the installation. Water lines need to be buried deep enough and cannot run through areas where frost can ge to them, like concrete foundations, bedrock, things like that.


Hi all and thanks mucho for all the input!! I have a temp fix in place fo now and have a large stock tank with heater in one paddock and a tiny heater in place under a float and blocked off on that side to keep the opposite side open for those horses. All are drinking happily and no freezing for now.


I have spoken to so many companies from Jug to Nelson to Ritchie and the folks that made my present waterer. It was faulty from its beginnings but also a different installer that takes no short cuts and has installed many two sided waterers in our area for years like I plan on getting in a bit.



I have a friend that's husband tells of an ancient way of digging down deep enough and placing hollow tubes standing upright from below the frost line. Then ontop of the tubes that allow the air from beneath place a watering tank filled with water even without a heater inside . I forget what type of ancient form of watering this is called but I am going to try it starting next spring when I can dig and over winter as an experiment in a pasture. He says it kind of a lost art and his grandpa used to keep his water unthawed all winter this way for his stock??? Interesting!!

Tis the season to double check you stock tanks for 'shorts'. Just sticking your hand in the water doesn't count.

My neighbor is heading to the vet clinic today with a horse that is dehydrated....their short was intermittent (timer) so unless a horse drank at the 'on' time it was fine.
I had an electrician put in a separate copper ground wire directly in a stock tank after he found stray voltage which may have come from a bad under ground wire some where or was from an unknown source like farms experience. He even hooked another ground to the outlet box the heater was plugged into. We thought the problem was a bad heater but testing showed a very small current. Grounding fixed it all.
That is one of the huge advantages of auto waterers like Nelson and Richie, the heating element is not in the water.
Jane Liess

When I first installed my auto-waterer, the horses would approach it and snort at it...It was in summer so I wasn't thinking of the tank heater.  I tested it and there was voltage from the water to ground (due to the heater, although the circuit breaker wasn't even on).  I called the power company, and they were out the next day to install a ground field around my waterer.  There is definitely a problem with stray voltage in my area (there are high voltage lines running nearby).  The power company is very quick to address any complaints because they know about the problem.  I can't put a tank heater in ANY water tank here without driving a ground rod and grounding the tank.

Ritchie all the way. I would have to disagree with the person that called Nelson the Cadillac. they seem so complex and since they only sell direct, I don't have anyone near me that sells parts if I need it. For freezing, take a look at the Ritchie that has the plastic bottom portion and a stainless steel trough.  They work fantastic during the winter in my area.  I can't remember the model number but I have it sitting in the middle of my paddock, unprotected and our winters can get -20+ with the wind chill.  My neighbor has one that he has rehabbed.  I would say it is about 30 years old and he had no problems getting parts.  I guess if you are going to invest a lot of money into something it would be reassuring to know you can still get parts years down the road to keep it going.  
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