Ponds on Horse Properties
Adds value and beautiful but may have some risk
By Havilah Parisi
Ponds and small lakes are one beautiful piece of a horse property. They add value to the property. There are many benefits of having a pond for your horses. One of which is that when it is sweltering outside, horses can go in to the pond and cool off. Swimming is a low impact exercise that many people use when they are rehabilitating a horse. It is also a great “trust exercise” that a person and their horse can try.
Ponds also offer a consistent source of water for the horses. In the cold months of northern California pipes can freeze, watering troughs can be covered with two inch thick ice sheets. When there is a pond in the pasture they can easily paw the ice covering it and get a much needed drink. Since small lakes are usually much larger than most watering troughs they don’t freeze with such thick ice. Although ponds offer many great benefits such as a water supply, they do have some major problems.
Small lakes and ponds are breeding grounds for bacteria and algae. Some algae like Chara algae are harmless. It grows on the bottom of the pond and is just a nuisance to the appearance of the lake or pond. Chara algae along with a host of other types of algae are no problem at all to animals or people. However, there are some algae and bacteria that can be tremendously deadly to people and animals.
One of these is blue-green algae. Blue-green algae is a Cyanobacteria. This algae is usually a light bright green slime that floats on the top of the pond and disperses quickly when touched. This bacteria can bloom in the late summer when temperatures are high. When it blooms it releases a toxin. When a person comes in contact with it, they can show symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting as well as other problems.
Dogs like to swim in water and livestock such as cattle and horses often drink out of ponds where they can ingest a lot of this bacteria. When an animal ingests blue-green algae or licks it off of their coat they can have seizures and diarrhea. Most of the time people don’t catch these symptoms right away when they start or don’t get the animal to the vet in time. These animals will most likely die within twenty four hours. This bacteria will take many horse’s lives if it is not taken away or the horses are corralled away from the pond.
Another problem that ponds create is a parasite’s and flying bug’s hatching ground. Mosquitoes, as well as other bugs, have their young hatch in the water; still, not moving ponds make the best conditions for this. Some parasites live in the water and can easily be sucked into horses when they are drinking. Roundworms (ascarids) and Large Stongyles live in the water and can cause many problems for horses.
Most people say to fence off a pond so that horses can’t drink up a parasite, injure themselves when they are reaching down the bank to get water, or harm themselves with blue-green algae and other bacteria. When you look for horse property, weigh the risks of having a pond with the benefits.