Electric Fence Safety for Horses

Credit: Thinkstock Electric fence can be a safe and economic way to divide internal paddocks on your property if they are installed and managed properly.

Editor’s note: Animal Arts provides answers to your questions about building and construction around equine facilities in the Ask the Expert: Barns and Farm Building forum. You can post questions to have an expert respond on the forum.

Q: I’m sure you have been asked about this before, but this year I’m having to use electric fence to divide my fields because the horses need grazing, but much less because we have so much grass! Is there a “best practices” that you recommend for using electric fence?

A: Thank you for your question. Using electric fencing as a temporary pasture divider, especially for rotating pastures, is a reasonable idea. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Don’t use electric fence as primary enclosure or permanent fencing. The horses need a safer, more permanent barrier between them and the road, for example. For dividing a pasture though, it’s OK.
  • Use the ribbon type because it is far more visible to the horses and therefore it is safer. This product is called polytape.
  • Use a safe anchoring post. An example of an unsafe post is an uncapped T post. Those are very sharp. Use a capped metal post or fiberglass post that is compatible with the ribbon fencing.
  • Cross brace the fencing at all corners so it doesn’t sag.
  • Do not use solar chargers. Use a line voltage charger that is sized for the length of fencing that you’re using. You’ll need advice on this from the fencing supply folks.
  • Have a licensed electrician hook up the charger to your electrical system, ensuring that there is enough wattage available to do this and that everything is done to code.
  • Install the ribbon fencing so that it is as tight as it can be and so it doesn’t sag (again, braced at all corners).
  • Avoid running the fencing under branches of a tree. If a limb falls, it will pull the fence down and short it out. 
  • Inspect your fence regularly to ensure it is in good repair and tighten it when it sags.

It’s also important to have enough enclosures so that some areas can “rest” while they’re recovering from grazing. Contact the agricultural extension office in your area to get specific information on pasture management. I have found these resources to be a tremendous help.






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