The American Fence Association offers the following tips designed to keep your horses safe and secure:
As every horse owner knows, keeping horses safe, secure and contained can be a challenge. Choosing the right fence and maintaining it properly are key to keeping horses healthy.
Types of Horse Fence
A variety of fence materials are available to enclose horses:
Electric - these fences are available in a number of styles, such as tape, braid, ropes or coated wire. Like flexible rail, these fences can be installed with rails of pressure treated Southern Yellow Pine, solid vinyl or metal T-post with a plastic sleeve.
Flexible Rail - rails are constructed of high tensile wire, encased in polyethylene to form rails of differing widths. Posts should be set in concrete and can be pressure treated Southern Yellow Pine, solid vinyl or metal T-post with a plastic sleeve.
Vinyl - posts and rails are constructed of vinyl, which never needs to be painted. Color choices include white, tan or gray, consult a fence contractor for additional color choices.
Wood - posts and rails are constructed of wood like pressure treated Southern Yellow Pine or cedar. Fence can be painted or stained to match homes or barns.
Woven Wire - a mesh fence strung on pressure treated wood end, gate or corner posts, with metal T-posts, fiberglass or plastic used for line posts.
Proper planning is the crucial first step in choosing a fence. Centaur HTP in Muscle Shoals, AL, has developed BASIC?, a useful planning tool for those considering horse fencing, according to Business Manager John Saylor.
"If horse owners follow the BASIC rules, which are Budget, Appearance, Safety, Installation and Containment, they should be rewarded with a good fence that meets their needs," Saylor said.
"Containment, which is the top priority for horse owners, should be considered first. The fence should help horse owners keep the horse in a certain area, as well as fulfill insurance requirements."
The second priority, safety, goes hand-in-hand with containment. "By containing a horse, the owner is already increasing its safety. Other things to keep in mind are keeping the horse safe from sharp edges, pinch points and loose wires," Saylor explained.
The third step is to consider the budget for the project. And finally installation and maintenance is the fourth step. "The owner should determine how much maintenance a fence will require and how much time and money it will take to maintain. Maintenance costs can significantly impact the value of fence materials," Saylor said.
Before having the fence installed, Dave Bryson, of Electrobraid in Halifax, Nova Scotia, advises, "Leave a 12-foot lane-way between paddocks, and larger paddocks are safer for horses because they are not so confined."
A properly installed fence will last a long time. When installing horse fence, consider the following tips from Debbie Disbrow, of RAMMfence Systems in Swanton, OH:
- Any tensioned fence (flexible rail or electric) should be braced, and corner, end and gateposts should be set in concrete.
- Flexible rail and electric fence posts should be set at a minimum of 8' or a maximum of 12', depending on the size of the paddock.
- Be sure to use adequate ground rods with electric fence. A minimum of three, 6' ground rods are recommended for a large paddock.
- Use a charger with an electric fence.
- Vinyl fence posts must be installed on 8' centers, as rails are 16' long. Posts should be reinforced with concrete. Use snap on locking caps instead of glued caps.
- Use an electrified wire in conjunction with vinyl fence to keep horses from running into the fence, as vinyl may break.
- Wood fences should have a minimum of three rails to ensure horse containment. Use screws instead of nails.
- To prevent cribbing on wooden fences or posts, try adding an electric wire to the top of the fence, using a crib strap or applying special sprays or paints designed to inhibit cribbing.
- Woven wire fences should be braced and stretched taut when installed to avoid sagging.
- Avoid sharp edges on a woven wire fence by crimping spliced areas.
- A wood, electric or flexible rail or may be added to the top of a woven wire fence to prevent horses from leaning on it and causing a "scalloped" effect.Bryson adds that the highest strand of electric fencing should be at 48" - 52" tall, while the lowest at 24" - 28" inches. He further recommends grounding the second strand from the top.Maintenance
Each type of fence requires some maintenance to ensure its longevity. "All fences should be periodically checked for signs of high traffic or areas that need to be repaired," revealed Disbrow. Flexible rail fencing should not require retensioning, if the fence is braced properly during installation, according to Disbrow. "The only exception is if a large branch or tree falls on the fence. Then, some tension may need to be applied." Disbrow also cautions that a proper number of rails be installed to accommodate the number of horses that will be contained by the fence. Bryson says the number one way to maintain an electrified fence is to make sure the electricity is always on. "Don't turn off your fence energizer to save money. The cost of electricity for an electric fence is only about a dollar a month - the same as a 100 watt bulb." Not maintaining a charged fence at all times can confuse the horse and keep him from respecting the fence. "With hand-tensioned fences like many electric fences, horse owners should be sure to check fence lines to make sure they are maintaining tension. Lines may need to be retensioned periodically," Disbrow said. Like flexible rail fencing, vinyl fencing requires little maintenance. A periodic check to make sure posts are straight is about the only maintenance required, according to Disbrow. "Horse owners should check spliced and termination areas of woven wire fences to prevent sharp edges by crimping. Keeping a woven wire fence taut is also a priority," Disbrow explained. Wood fencing requires the most amount of maintenance. The fence should be checked periodically for any hardware, like nails, that might be sticking out. Stray nails can be avoided by using screws or batons over rails that join at a post, says Disbrow. Other routine wood fence maintenance includes painting or staining and replacing warped or cracked boards. Horse owners can depend on American Fence Association member contractors to help them make important decisions about their fencing choices. AFA member contractors have access to a variety of continuing education classes and the latest materials in fencing and can provide knowledgeable service and installation. AFA contractors also adhere to a strict code of ethics and are dedicated to professionalism. Some contractors choose to take the commitment to customer service a step further by becoming a Certified Fence Professional, or CFP. Members who achieve CFP status must meet continuing education requirements, as well as pass a rigorous written exam, and must recertify every three years. To find an AFA contractor, or for more information about fencing, please contact the American Fence Association by visiting www.americanfenceassociation.com or calling (800) 822-4342.