When planning and constructing a grazing or work space for your horse, remember that you are building fencing for your horse — your horse is not built for fencing! Here are some guidelines to help you finesse your fencing.
Time, weather, nature and nurture all factor into your fencing’s longevity, structural integrity and overall cost and maintenance. Before you begin exploring your options for equine fencing, consider your long-term needs. Are you reconstructing, or creating a structure from scratch? Will your enclosure be temporary, or do you hope to create your own permanent pastoral paradise? You also need to consider affordability and material availability. Here are some things to think about when considering equine fencing.
Picking a fence post
Widely available and commonly used. Can be installed using a technique that compacts the soil around the post rather than loosening it through digging. Driving posts in this way will add strength and durability. Wood posts require maintenance for rot, splintering and weathering. They can be used in combination with both organic and inorganic fencing materials.
Treated wood posts
Will not rot, are uniform in shape and natural in appearance. However, they are chemically treated — these chemicals will seep into the soil and your horse’s grazing.
Metal T posts
Simple to install with either a driver or sledgehammer, and can be easily moved. Metal T posts require additional materials such as clips, caps and insulators in order to be safe for equine use.
Locust posts are a renewable and rustic wooden post choice. They are naturally resistant to rot, making them more durable. They are heavy, and require a deep hole for installation. Locust posts can be cost prohibitive, unless you live in an area where they can be reclaimed. They are not uniform in size and shape, giving them a charmingly natural look.
Wooden rail fencing — the classic
Wooden rail fencing is traditional, natural and inexpensive. It’s what you see when you envision the picturesque landscape of a rolling pasture, brimming with rural tranquility. Its visual appeal, however, involves significant upkeep and maintenance, especially if your fence is painted. The wood must be inspected regularly for splinters, loose nails and boards. Rail fencing is also especially tempting for cribbers and leaners, so remember your horse’s habits.
These fences are made of steel wires woven horizontally and vertically. The wires are connected by either a knot or welding at their junctions. This type of fencing requires proper spacing between knots to prevent injury, and you must include added visibility, such as a top board. The fence will stretch as your horse leans, so it is often used with electric fencing as a deterrent.
V-Mesh is an exceptional fencing medium, the choice of many veterinarians, horse owners and breeders. Composed of wires woven diagonally and horizontally to create a V-shaped mesh weave, it gives the material flexibility, strength and safety. A triangle is, after all, the strongest shape. It can absorb a horse’s impact, while the no-cut wires prevent injury in the event of a fall. The spacing between the wires is small enough that it will prevent your horse from stepping into the fence — it will also stop uninvited critters from doing the same.
Vinyl, also known as PVC, is strong but not flexible enough to withstand significant impact — it shatters easily. While aesthetically appealing, it should be used in conjunction with electric fencing. New materials, such as polymer, are being used in place of wood and PVC. High-tension wire coated in polymer (with or without rails) gives this fencing a traditional or modern look that is both strong and flexible.
Electric fencing is versatile and economical. It is also available for both long- and short-term fencing needs. It can also help protect and preserve other fencing mediums when used in conjunction with them. Though it may seem intimidating, the shock from an electric fence is on par with a nip from a fellow horse – a stern but gentle enforcement of boundaries. It is not cruel or painful. Visibility is an issue with electric fencing, so choose a fence with wider braids or ribbons. Proper installation is also essential.
Highly visible, strong, and resistant to rot and rust, steel pipe is a sturdy, reliable choice for fencing. Its solidity means it will be less forgiving if encountered, but also better equipped to withstand leaning and normal wear and tear.
Start horsin’ around
Envisioning things from a horse’s perspective may help you make decisions around your fencing needs, and avoid a few hurdles along the way.
Considering visibility: “I’m a horse! What could I run into when it comes to fencing?” Well, for starters, the fence! It must be easy to see. Wooden and pipe fences are great for this. Wire fencing is less visible, but you can include a top board.
Making friends: If you’re designing a fence to divide neighboring pastures, corners present difficulties for horses that may not run in the same social circles. Fence corners that curve may prevent a horse from feeling cornered and reduce playground antics.
Feeling peckish: From chewing wood to cribbing, if your horse has a tendency to nibble, you will want to consider this when choosing a fence material, possibly opting for pipe over wood.
Having a look around: As they say, “the grass is always greener”, and your horses will test the boundaries of your fence. How they test them depends on the temperaments and personalities of the horses. Most will at least dip a hoof (or a head!) into the fencing. The spacing of wire fences should account for this, so neither feet or heads get caught.
Is your mare cunning and clever? Some fences and posts are easier to disassemble than others. Planning discourages jailbreaks.
Is your stallion brave and brazen? If your fence is charged or breached, make sure the material is one that can safely absorb impact. If broken, it may splinter or shatter.
Whatever materials you choose to build your fencing, the most important thing is safety and maintenance. It may be tempting to opt for lower cost materials or labor, but an improperly installed fence that damages easily will ultimately cost you more. Don’t hesitate to consult a contractor or fellow equine enthusiast for assistance and advice. Shop around, explore your options, and create a space both you and your horse will love!