There are many fencing options for horses, ranging from simple to high tech. But before you dig the first fence post, plan your site carefully. Consider size, convenience, and the lay of the land, says Extension forage agronomist Ed Rayburn at West Virginia University.
"Some land is steep; some land lays flat. Topography also impacts supplying water to the paddocks," says Rayburn. "So not only are you looking at soil situations, but also you're looking at ease of getting water to those paddocks."
After you've determined the pasture location, calculate where the boundaries will be by the number of horses, the amount of forage mass that can be produced, and how it may be used for other purposes. Also, determine whether the fences will be permanent or portable.
"I do encourage you to look at using some temporary fencing to fine-tune, especially in critical times," says Rayburn. "As an example, if you get into a drought period, you'll benefit from being a little more critical in your management than when things are going well."
Wire mesh fencing
A pasture surrounded by barbed wire fencing is cheap to build, but you'll be paying for it with veterinary bills. There are so many other options that are safe, attractive, and durable. Agriculture engineer Eileen Wheeler at Penn State University says the safest but most expensive fencing is wire mesh made specifically for horses.
"A solid mesh fence should be about 5 feet high. It might come down close to or near the ground and the horses can't get their heads through it, foals can't get through it, and dogs can't get into the enclosure where the horses are," says Wheeler.
A single, electrified strand of wire isn't going to gain the respect of your horses, especially if you turn the electricity off every now and then. If your horses try to go through the wire, they could become tangled up and sliced. Fortunately, electric fencing manufacturers have taken this into consideration.
"They now have electrical wires embedded in a matrix of very elastic and stretchy materials. And this design provides two things," says Wheeler. "It gets the cutting wire away from the horse because the horse contacts the web, mesh, or fabric material rather than a sharp wire. And it increases the visibility of the electric line."
Wire mesh fencing costs about $150-$200 per 100 feet.
Refrain from stringing an electric wire at the top of vinyl or PVC fencing. It looks nice, but it doesn't make a secure horse barrier. Horses will test a fence's strength deliberately and casually, especially if they're spirited and like to push their limits. Just one good shove and they'll easily break through.
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