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Horse Fencing – the Whats and Hows

Horse FencingAs horses have evolved to live on large open areas with no man-made borders to worry about, special care should be taken when setting up a fence or pen. The main concern should be not only stability and durability, but also accident potential.

The two main risk factors are the horse trying to reach the grass of the other side and accidentally running into an insufficiently visible fence. The general rule is the smaller the pen, the more visible the fence. Regardless of material, fences must be sturdy enough to withstand repeated mild to moderate impact.

Below is a rundown of the most popular horse fencing materials with recommendations:

  • Wire is used quite often to enclose large areas due to its low installation cost, but is generally not recommended for use with horses or other animals. The reasons for this are low visibility, especially to moving observers, and high injury potential. Barbed wire is especially dangerous and is considered taboo by nearly all professional horse handlers. Smooth wire fences should have at least five strands to provide enough of a barrier and are usually coupled with electric fences. However, when installing a wire fence, woven mesh is considered the best material. A responsible horse owner should take care to use a tightly woven mesh so that the horse would not be able to put a hoof through it, and add a top rail of a sturdy material to increase visibility and prevent mesh bending.
  • Electric fences are a subset of wire fence generally used in temporary enclosures, to break up a large pen into smaller compartments, or as an additional layer of fencing to keep the horses from leaning on other types of fence. The current in an electric fence is strong enough to provide a noticeable shock, yet mild enough not to cause lasting trauma.
  • Wood is considered the “classic” horse fencing solution and is preferred by many experienced horse owners. However, wood fences are usually expensive both to build and maintain, and have certain safety issues as well.
  • Cable is a “compromise material”, cheaper and more durable than wood, more visible and safer than wire, provides a noticeable cushioning effect when a horse collides with it.
  • Metal pipe fences are expensive to install, yet highly durable and cheap to maintain.
  • Solid wall fences made of stone are safe, highly visible and practically impervious to time, yet are the most expensive to build. Recommended for permanent enclosures.


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