Ideas Around the Barnyard

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You’ve just spent the entire weekend replacing the broken down fencing with some brand spanking new wood. Then you turn some horses out. A few hours later you come back and the little beavers have already chewed the top rail.

It’s a fact of life—many horses like to chew on wood fences, especially when they are confined in a small corral or spend a lot of time in a stall. Horses can devour most feeds quickly, leaving much of the day for idleness. And when there’s no pasture to graze, the bored horses chew on whatever is handy. They soon develop a liking for wooden posts, poles, boards, etc.

Wood preservatives, old motor oil and foul-tasting solutions used by many horse owners to protect fences will deter some horses, but others will chew wood no matter what you put on the wood to discourage them. And chemicals put on fences can be harmful or toxic to horses—old motor oil, for instance, contains lead, which is poisonous.

But there is a cost-effective way to save your fencing without endangering your horses—small-mesh chicken wire. Posts, boards or poles that horses regularly chew in your pens or paddocks can be protected with the wire because the horses can’t chew through it.

First, get a pair of tin snips and cut long strips of the chicken wire that will wrap around posts and top rails. Staple the chicken wire at frequent intervals so there are no loose patches or sharp protrusions—just a smooth surface that the horse cannot grab hold of. Carefully and thoroughly tuck under all cut edges so there are no sharp edges. Use staples that are large enough to hold securely and never pull out.

For double protection, apply a non-toxic wood preservative such as log oil periodically to ensure the wood’s long life.

Spending a little extra time and money now can save more time and a lot more money later to replace posts and boards or rebuild the corrals and pens.

Once you have your fence secured, now it’s time to look at other problem areas in the paddock, such as the water buckets. Many horses, when they are not chewing on the wood, like to play with their water tubs, picking them up with their teeth or pawing around them with their feet and getting dirt in the tub. In a stall or paddock you can use a tub that hooks to the wall or into the fence corner, but in a large pen or pasture, where you have more than one horse using the tub, you want to avoid placing it in the corner where horses can hurt each other.

In several of our horse pens we use large tubs that snap to the fence to keep the horse from pulling them out into the pen to play with. We install eye-bolts into the rim of the tub by drilling a hole through the rubber to put the bolt through, using a washer and nuts on the bottom side to keep the bolt firmly in place. A snap can then be used to hook the tub to a net wire fence, or to a loop of hay twine or wire around a fence post, pole or board.

This still won’t solve the problem of the foot-dunker who insists on pawing the tub or putting his feet in it. To thwart the tub-tipping foot dunker, you can get a discarded tire to set the tub into (small tractor tires often work perfectly for large rubber tubs), and then set the tub-in-tire on top of another tire to get the height needed to discourage pawing and foot dunking.

Full of water, the tub fitting snugly in the top tire is quite heavy, and difficult for a horse to pull out or pick up with his teeth. The tires are also heavy enough that the horses generally can’t move them around, yet resilient enough that a horse won’t be hurt if he runs into them. The tub can be pulled up out of the tire now and then to rinse and clean it, but will stay cleaner than when down on the ground.

If you have a playful beast who still tries to pull the tub out of the tire, you can put eye-bolts into the rim of the tub and snap it to the fence behind the tires. In one pen where we had a very persistent tub-stealer, we anchored the tires solidly to the fence with smooth wire.

On some days it seems that horses are going out of their way to give you things to repair and replace. By taking a few preventative measures, you can significantly cut down on the time and energy spent on these repairs and spend more time dealing with their issues under saddle. [sm]