Farm fencing design and construction impacts the day-to-day operations of horse farms—both positively and negatively. Effective fencing will improve farm management efficiencies and create a safe environment for corralled animals. Fences improperly designed or poorly maintained not only reflect badly on your operations, they are a hazard and a leading cause of injury to horses.
Traditional wood fencing materials have long been the popular choice for agricultural fencing, especially on horse farms where its attractiveness, strength and visibility are highly prized for creating corrals, show rings and pastures.
High quality pressure-treated fencing materials, properly installed and maintained, will provide the strength and integrity a fence requires, and perform superbly for many years. But due to the tough weather conditions horse fences must endure, even the best fences will need replacement at some point.
With that in mind, make it a habit to walk or ride the entire length of your fences at least yearly. Even better, keep an eye out for problems with your enclosures whenever you’re working near them.
Inspect for soft or splintered spots, loose nails or screws, degrading hinges and other hardware, split or rotten boards. Make sure to check for stability and smooth operation of all gates. Some structural issues can be handled with regular maintenance and repair. But older fences that suffer from larger structural problems will require partial or total replacement.
There are many resources available that provide information for planning a horse fence, from online articles to county extension offices. Some fence installations can be do-it-yourself projects for those owners who have the time, skills and equipment. For larger projects or when DIY isn’t a practical option, fence contractors can get the job done for you.
Is your current fence causing chore inefficiencies due to poor or outdated design that no longer suits your operations? If the fence’s functionality suffers due to design and layout, now’s the time to fix that situation.
Fences, in addition to keeping horses on the property and away from dangers like nearby roadways, should aid facility management by allowing controlled grazing and segregation of horses.
Are your current enclosures large enough to avoid crowding, and give horses adequate room to graze without the need for frequent contact with the fence or one another? Overstocked and overgrazed pastures can experience erosion of topsoil due to trampling of vegetation. And, enclosures must be large enough for field equipment to maneuver easily through gates to avoid damage to the fence and reduce the time required to accomplish work in the field.
Consider the composition of your herd. Is it large or small, stable or frequently changing? How old and healthy are the horses and what are their temperaments (peaceful, playful or prone to roughhousing)? Is there an established pecking order or are there frequent fights for dominance? What incentives have your horses to get to the other side of the fence? All of these factors can affect the energy level in a herd—which, in turn, impacts the design and layout of an effective equine facility.
In addition to the bigger picture of overall layout, keep an eye out for specific problem areas: slippery mud conditions developing around the gate; water splashing out of the trough and causing erosion under the fence; or other nuisances or inconveniences. Many of these sorts of problems can be solved by a thoughtful re-design of your fence.
When planning replacement enclosures, consider any future needs and plans for expansion. Maybe you should add fencing to increase the functionality of your business, making it operate more smoothly and creating a good first impression for clients and visitors. As an example, adding perimeter fencing is an effective way to ensure that loose horses cannot leave the property, which becomes more important as traffic and neighbors increase around a horse facility. A perimeter fence can also keep visitors away from the horses. The better you manage your horses and their environment through thoughtful fence layout and design, the happier and safer you and your horses will be.
Choosing the right materials for your horse fencing is an important factor in ensuring a long-lived enclosure that looks great while making facility operations flow smoothly and safely corralling horses. Although your initial cost will be greater with pressure-treated wood, these fences create a strong and highly visible boundary for both horses and humans, and will last up to four times as long as fences made from untreated wood.
Due to their innate fight-or-flight reflex, all but the most geriatric horses are susceptible to crashing into fences. Horses will bolt suddenly in response to perceived danger. Large and fast as they are, they can hit a fence with great force, so visibility is an important consideration when choosing your fencing materials. Wood post-and-board fences are easy for corralled animals to see and respect. Don’t make the mistake of choosing cheaper, but unsafe, horse fence materials such as galvanized wire or barbed wire, both of which are not easy for animals to see and can cause entanglement or lacerate skin when a horse leans, scratches or falls into it.
If you have barbed wire fencing that is containing horses, now is the time to remove it and replace it with a safer fencing material such as pressure-treated lumber.
As a renewable resource, wood post-and-board fencing has another important benefit: today’s sustainable lumber harvest and production practices protect and conserve vital ecosystems and natural habitats. So, wood fencing isn’t only beautiful, it’s a choice you can feel good about.
The height requirements of fences used for other livestock do not necessarily apply to horse fences. Horses are athletic and more likely to jump a fence when spooked or herded. Check with your municipality regarding any local building codes that may dictate fence heights, but a good rule of thumb is that horse fences should be 54 to 60 inches above ground level. When the fence will border a highway or anywhere that a loose horse can flee your premises, go for 60-inch height to be safe.
Additionally, horse fences should be tall enough to discourage over-the-fence nibbling and socializing, as these activities can cause damage as horses push against the posts and boards. Adding a strand of electric wire just inside the top rail will discourage horses who habitually lean, scratch, or reach over the top of fences.
Does your fence successfully resist when a horse challenges it? Horses will test fence strength deliberately and casually. They often reach through or over fences to interact with animals on the other side or to graze, putting pressure on their enclosures.
Even a very visible fence (such as a wood post-and-board fence) may be challenged when a frightened horse bolts. A fence should be secure enough to contain a horse that runs into it without causing injury to the animal, or suffering structural damage. A perfect fence should have some "give" to it to minimize injury upon impact. Attaching boards to the inside (horse side) of the posts will strengthen the fence; if a horse leans against the fence, its weight will be borne by adjacent fence posts and will be less likely to push out the fasteners.
Adding a line of electric fencing increases security and reduces wear and tear on a horse fence. No matter the material you choose for your fence, good barriers work on two levels: They provide a physical presence that deters escape, and they provide a psychological force that makes horses think escape is either too arduous or impossible. We seldom think of psychological deterrents with regard to agricultural animals, but that's the principle underlying electric-fence systems. Once shocked, a horse learns quickly not to touch the fence.
If horses are damaging your fence by reaching over it to graze, a strand of electric fence across the top should prevent this. Additionally, electric fencing can provide some protection from predators such as dogs, which sometimes like to chase horses. Once a dog has experienced an electric fence, he’s not likely to get close to it again.
It bears repeating: If you still have barbed wire fencing that is containing horses, now is the time to remove it and replace it with a safer fencing material.
If you already have post-and-board fencing, are boards mounted on the inside of posts whenever possible? Doing so will not only make for a stronger fence, but reduce harm to corralled animals; exposed posts on the inside of an enclosure can injure a horse that runs along the fence line.
The bottom board of a post-and-board fence should be installed 8 to 12 inches above the ground in order to prevent foals from rolling underneath and to avoid trapping feet and legs. The remaining boards should be spaced far enough apart so a hoof, leg or head can’t become trapped.
Horses tend to congregate around gates, so make sure whatever gate used is sturdy and safe. Avoid designs with gaps between the gate and supporting post to prevent horses from getting a hoof caught or foals from getting their heads entangled in the gap. Additionally, avoid diagonal cross bracing in your gates. Although this strengthens the structure, the narrow angles can trap legs, feet, and possibly heads.
Fences represent a very large investment in your property, and they say a lot about your operations. Enclosures that show excessive signs of wear and tear or deterioration aren’t safe for corralled animals. And, the state of repair (or disrepair) of your fences will be one of the first things visitors to your property will notice.
Even if your herd is being contained by your current fencing, replacing deteriorating and inadequate fencing will not only reflect well on your equine facility operations, it can forestall larger problems down the road.
If your fence was damaged through a natural disaster, The Emergency Conservation Program may provide you some relief. The ECP helps farmers and ranchers to repair damage to farmlands caused by natural disasters by giving ranchers and farmers funding and assistance to repair the damaged farmland. The ECP may cover the removal of debris, repair of land, and repair of fences. This program is designed specifically to handle cleanup following a storm and the repair of storm damage.
If it’s time for a new horse fence for your operation, take this opportunity to consider design changes, upgrades and enhancements that will benefit your operations both today and for years to come. Plus, you will have the opportunity to put add flair and personality to the project.
Pressure-treated wood post-and-board materials create fencing that’s strong enough to contain a horse, resilient enough to not harm the animal if it charges the fence, and provides a deterrent to keep a horse from trying to escape.
Attractive, well-maintained fencing can raise property values and, if you’re running a business, give your farm an air of respectability and success. And who wouldn’t like that?
Contact us today! Our expert wood fencing representatives can answer your questions and help you choose the right products to meet your needs.