This is literally the process of taking an axe to the ice on a water trough. Once the ice is sufficently broken up, you can use your trusty spade to shovel it out. Now your cows and horses and even the friendly deer and not so friendly cougars can come and drink some water, at least until it ices over again.
This daily winter ritual is one of the things I remember from my childhood on a ranch. My Mom would bundle up us kids, and we'd grab an axe and a shovel, and hop in an old Ford Bronco, and away we would go. It was a big ranch, and there were a lot of water troughs to visit, so it took us most of the morning, but after we were done, we would go home and have some nice hot soup and hot chocolate.
You should have seen a four year old me (before I had to attend school), trying wield an axe. My sister and I got cold pretty quick, and mostly just sat in the truck with our fingers in the heat vents. We also whined a lot, but Mom still made us hot chocolate when we got home, bless her heart.