You love your horses, and you want to keep them as safe and comfortable as you can. That’s why you groom them carefully, invest in high-quality foods, and give them everything they need for a happy, healthy life.
However, one of the best ways to keep your horse safe is to invest in their space—more specifically, the fencing around their paddock. Here’s how you can protect your horses with proper fencing.
Start with the Right Type of Fence
There are a lot of questions that come with building a horse fence, especially if you’re building one for the first time. Where should you put the fence? How much fence do you need? And, perhaps most importantly, what kind of fencing is best for your horses?
The right materials for your horse fence will depend on many things, from your horses’ temperaments to your budget for the fencing project. However, most equestrians use one of the following options for their horse fences:
The old-fashioned post-and-rail fencing is the quintessential horse fence. Common at boarding and training facilities, this wooden fence has a classic, idyllic aesthetic that lots of people love (and expect) from horse paddocks.
But when you set aesthetics aside, wooden fencing can present a few problems. Firstly, it’s expensive, both to install and to maintain. It also will not give easily—which means that any horse who charges it could end up injured. If you have horses who like to make escape attempts, a wooden fence might also mean a hefty vet’s bill.
Electric fencing is cost-effective, easy to install, and effective at keeping horses in. The electric shock they receive from touching the fence (mild enough to avoid any damage) is a great deterrent for restless horses, establishing a psychological barrier as well as a physical one.
However, there is one problem: most electric fences are made with electric polywire. This material tends to break very easily, even under strong winds. Broken polywires can cut like a knife, which will hurt your horses more than any shock.
These days, many horse owners are opting for wire mesh materials when fencing in their animals. The benefits of mesh fencing are many: wire mesh is economical because it’s long-lasting, it’s durable, and it effectively keeps horses in and predators out.
One common mesh fencing option is “v-mesh,” which weaves a v-shaped pattern with one continuous wire along your fence line. This style has a lot of give (great for horses who like to charge the fence), but it’s less likely to break than other fencing options.
What do you do if your horse wants to try and climb the fence? For some, the answer lies with another kind of mesh fencing. “Non-Climb” wire fencing uses a very tight mesh weave (2” x 4”), which prevents hooves from getting stuck in the wire.
Of course, this list is not comprehensive of all the fencing options on the market today. However, there is a reason for that; some fencing is appropriate for livestock but absolutely wrong for horses. These include:
Barbed wire can cause significant damage to any horse that gets too close. If your horse likes to chew on fencing, likes to walk the fence line, or even gets spooked and makes a break for it, a barbed-wire fence will unquestionably do more harm than good.
High Tensile Steel Wire
High tensile steel wire is a common choice for cattle fencing. However, it’s important to remember that horses are much more excitable than cattle. These wires can snap with the slightest pressure, which can result in cuts or even punctures to your horse’s hide.
Finding the right fencing material is only half the battle. If you want to keep your horse safe, you also need to install your fence properly. Even the most minor mistake can make your whole fence ineffective, so make sure you follow these simple tips.
Create a Plan
As with any project, planning is the key to success when you’re installing a horse fence. Before you place a single post or unroll a single bundle of wire, make sure you know exactly where you plan to place your fence, how far apart your posts will be, and how you plan to move forward with the installation process.
Call the Utility Company
You might have a plan ready to go, but if you uncover city pipes or wires once you start digging all your plans will end up on hold. This is why it’s important to call the utility company before you do any work on your horse fence. A quick phone call will help you make sure you can safely install your fence where you’d planned—and it might help you avoid costly repairs to the city’s water or power lines.
Get the Right Tools
If you don’t have the right tools and materials for your installation project, you won’t be able to make a safe and effective fence for your horses. For example, when planning to install a wire fence, you’ll need:
- Wooden corner posts and brace wire
- T-posts and a t-post driver
- A post digger
- A fence stretcher
- Fence staples and hammer
- Wire clips and fence pliers
- A tape measure
- String or wire (to keep the fence straight)
Having these tools ready can make all the difference in your installation experience—you don’t want to be caught without them partway through the project!
Install Your Posts Properly
Your posts are the bones holding your fence upright, so it is critical that you install them correctly. Make sure the corner posts are properly braced, and that line posts have the right amount of space between them for optimal security (we suggest 8 to 12 feet apart). This will ensure that your fence has the support it needs to stand tall and withstand nearly anything that runs into it.
Additionally, it’s important that you install your fence posts on the proper side of the fence. Posts should always be on the outside of the fence to prevent the fence from pulling away from the posts when pressure is applied from inside the pasture.
Stretch Your Wires
Wire fencing has a good amount of “give,” which means it can accommodate forces like strong winds or even an animal running into it. However, that give is only effective if your fence is fully taught! Make sure you take the time to stretch your fence as taught as possible (use a fence stretcher for extra help).
Call A Professional (if you need one)
A horse fence serves one main purpose: it keeps your horses safe. Therefore, the most important thing you need to do is make sure the fence is installed properly—even if you aren’t the one installing it.
There’s nothing wrong with calling in a pro if you don’t have the experience, the tools, or the time to install the fence yourself. A professional will ensure that your fence is well built and secure. In fact, working with a professional might be the best way to invest in your horses’ safety! If you need help finding an installer for your project, check out our Installer Locator to find a Red Brand Certified Fence Installer near you.
Maintain the Fence
Whether you install your fence yourself or hire a pro to do it, you will be responsible for maintaining your fence over the years. This means clearing away debris and overgrowth, replacing rotted or damaged posts, and re-stretching the fencing if it becomes too loose or saggy. You’ll have to do these things regularly (at least twice a year), but they will help keep your fence in good shape for a very long time.
To paraphrase the old saying, “Good fences make safe horses.” Therefore, following our advice is the best way to ensure that your horses are safe, comfortable, and happy in their paddock.
Dain Rakestraw is the Director of Marketing and Client Services at Red Brand, a line of premium agricultural fencing products known as the most recognized brand of agricultural fencing in the United States.