The gates and fences on your farm are a big investment in your facilities. Normal wear-and-tear by horses and everyday human use can cause gates and fences to "age" quicker than their normal life and force you to spend money to replace them. Following are some tips to help keep those gates and fences "healthier" and lasting longer.
First, put up quality gates and fences to start with. Using cheap materials or construction will inevitably mean you will replace them sooner than you would if you had spent a little more and installed quality materials.
There are many types of gates used around horses and other livestock. Your gates should be inspected regularly for problems, and employees and boarders should let you or your manager know immediately if there are any problems with any of the gates on your property.
One of the most common problems with gates is sagging, meaning the gate does not sit level or swing properly. Gates that are heavy can pull down on hinges, causing the unattached end to sag to the ground. This is not only unattractive, but it can mean the opening between the post and where you latch the gate can become wider and offer an escape to smaller horses, ponies or foals.
Another cause for sagging gates is when people climb over the gate to enter or leave a pasture or paddock. Inform you staff or clients that the few seconds it takes to open and latch the gate is required rather than climbing on the gate.
Sagging gates can be "assisted" by putting a block of wood under the open end where it latches to the gate post to offer support and take some of the strain off of the hinges.
Sagging gates can sometimes mean the chains used to secure some gates are no longer of sufficient length to latch securely. Make sure your latches are working properly, and inspect the latches regularly. Insist that employees and clients latch gates every time they enter or leave a field. If there is a problem with a gate latch, that should be reported to the farm manger or owner immediately for repair.
If you have perimeter fencing with gates leading to other properties or roads, make sure they are securely fastened (and locked, if necessary). When boarders trail ride, ask them to check the security of the gates. Those gates should be inspected at least monthly to ensure they are closed, latched and perhaps even locked.
Fences keep horses in some areas and out of other areas. They are important boundaries for safety. They can be expensive to install and maintain, so you should treat them with respect. That means using gates rather than climbing fences to access paddocks and fields. Climbing over fences can pull nails or break boards on wooden fences, stretch wire and pull staples on wire fences, and generally cause problems with any type of fencing.
Insist that employees and boarders use gates. If you find there is a human "access point" at which many people are climbing a fence, consider putting in steps to reduce strain on the fencing materials. If nothing else, insist that humans climb fences at posts where they are more secure.
Fences need to suit the type of horses they contain. Sometimes you need to add a strand or two of electric fence if horses are pushing on fences, fighting over fences or chewing on fences.
Your fences need to be inspected regularly for wear-and-tear and have regular maintenance performed. Depending on the fence, that might mean stretching wire, replacing boards, hammering back in nails or painting.
Just like you do with your gate inspections, you should inspect your fences regularly. That includes boundary fencing. Always "ride the fence" after storms that might cause damage to the fencing, such as downed limbs or trees that break boards or take out sections of fence.
If you have fence that runs along a road, it should be frequently examined to ensure that someone hasn't run through the fence or broken boards or posts in an accident. If there are curves near your fence line, it would save you money in the long run to purchase reflectors and put them on the posts to help warn drivers. Talk to your county road department to see if they will install reflectors, posts, signs, guardrails or anything else that can protect your fences and your horses.
Gates and fences are important parts of your facility and provide protection for your horses and the humans on the property. Keep them in good repair, inspect them regularly and give them the respect they deserve.