When it comes to fences, everyone faces the same challenges—whether you run a large breeding operation or manage a mid-size reining facility—because all horses can, and do, do “remarkable” things, especially when left to their own devices.
While the goal of all fencing is to provide a safe environment, there is no single best way to accomplish that. Picking the right system will depend on your situation. Climate, terrain, type and number of horses under your care, not to mention your budget, are all factors to consider, and likely will dictate the type of fence you choose.
In all circumstances, there are several considerations that you should take into account. For instance, plan ahead—draw a diagram of the property to determine your paddock/pasture areas, and consider how the fence you install today will apply to the future, i.e. should you expand your business, or should you add stallions or foals to your operation.
Once you have a strategy, check out your options. Here is a look at the pros and cons of the most common types of fences, to help you drill down to your final choice.
- aesthetically pleasing
- broad availability
- ease of installation, whether you do it yourself or have it done professionally
- strong and easily visible to horses
- Special machinery may be needed for installation in rocky areas or where the soil is acidic, which will add to your costs.
- Wood is high maintenance due to the wear and tear from weather, and to loss of integrity from horses running down the fence line.
- A hot wire is often necessary to keep horses from chewing, thereby increasing your costs.
Options in wood fences:
Rustic rail fences
- available in whole or split rail; used primarily as perimeter fencing
- considered the quintessential New England fencing system
- not recommended for small enclosures
Slip board fences
- instead of rails, uses boards that are slotted into the posts.
- least expensive choice in terms of material and replacement costs
- Boards are readily available and easy to install.
Nail on board fences
- good for horses in small paddocks
- Posts are positioned close together for maximum strength and durability.
- provide a visible barrier
- preferred for stallions or foals
- considered a less expensive option than wood
- ideal for creating portable paddocks, and for dividing the pasture for rotation purposes
- Shock upon contact deters chewing or leaning.
- can be used in conjunction with another fence type.
- easy to install
- easier for horses to run through
- may not stand up to harsh weather, i.e. snowstorms, ice.
- tends to sag, and does not stand up to fence line wear
Options in electric fencing:
- combines an electrically charged wire with another material such as mesh, or polymer
- available in several widths with varying degrees of shock value
Polymer coated low tensile or high tensile wires
- electric wires enclosed within the polymer
- will not bind
- constructed with interwoven poly fibers
- resilient in case of impact or pressure, similar to ropes in a boxing ring
Note: uncoated, welded or barbed wires should never be used for horses.
- excellent for a relatively level pasture surrounded by dense woods
- Consisting of non-welded wire strands knotted tightly together, mesh fences create a protective barrier that keeps horses in and predators out.
- considered durable and resistant to abuse or entanglement
- suitable in tight quarters, i.e. for foals that are being weaned or for turning out stallions
- Once the posts are installed, it is relatively easy to staple the mesh wire in place.
- Mesh wires are not flexible enough to accommodate some hills or rocky terrain.
- to optimize efficiency, must be combined with a top rail for structure and visibility, increasing installation, materials, and labor costs
- have a tendency toward rusting and sagging over time.
- virtually eliminates chewing
- designed with a locking system that enables the rail to become dislodged from the post upon impact, as opposed to breaking or splintering
- Installation is fairly simple: the posts are fitted into a cement base at which point the rails are slipped into the locking system.
- Initial material and labor costs are high.
- can crack in cold weather
- may not be able to withstand constant pressure or sudden impact
The options in PVC fencing are:
- Ultra-violet (UV) inhibitors prevent discoloration.
- Impact emulsifiers enhance strength to help prevent cracking in cold weather.
- considered safer than wood while offering a similar appearance
Flexible polyethylene rail (continuous run fence)
- constructed of wire bonded to the polymer for resilience upon impact
- The rail is fed through the specially-designed brackets in one length, making it easy to install.
- can be used in combination with wood, solid plastic or metal T posts
- combine the strength, flexibility and weather resistance of plastics with the look and feel of wood
- heavier than other materials, leading to higher shipping costs
- Cold weather can cause the wood to become rigid.
With so many choices, almost everyone can find a solution that fits their situation and budget. It’s worth taking a few minutes to make sure the fencing works for you and the horses in your care.