Fencing for Paddocks

When it comes to horses or cattle, fencing is one of the most important investments you will make! But, which fence type should you have an why? Do you know which fencing is best for your horse?

We’ve all experienced a Houdini horse; a horse that manages to escape from any and every fence. Stallions have been known to duck and dive under the tiniest of gaps between fencing and the ground, just to get to a mare in the next paddock. It's not unheard of for cheeky ponies to squeeze through all manner of fencing to go and explore. And we’ve all witnessed horses literally walk through fencing to get to the tasty green grass on the other side (you know, because the grass is always greener). 

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We may joke and laugh about these escapee stories. But, in reality, panic sets in when your horse is midway through fencing. I’m sure we have all witnessed a horse getting caught up in a fence. And, it is not nice! So many injuries are caused by inadequate fencing, the stress for both you and your horse can be avoided, and so can that hefty vet's bill, and the cost of replacing the fencing! You merely have to choose the right fence in the first place.

Now, you are either going to be choosing to fence your own property, or looking at fencing provided by boarding facilities. Either way, it is just as important to know what you’re looking for. Some fencing is simply not safe for horses under any circumstances. 

Barbed wire is one of these! This is never an okay option. Barbed wire can easily get caught on rugs, tails and mains and entrap your horse. Once your horse starts to panic, the massacre begins. Your horse may try to run through it or jump over it and do themselves some serious harm. Barbed wire will tear through rugs, and will most definitely cause injury. Injuries that can be life-threatening. 

If any boarding and agistment facility has barbed fencing, get out of there straight away. If you’ve moved onto a property that has barb, remove it before housing your horses there. Make sure you get all of the fencing off of your property. Loose bits of barb can cause serious damage to your horse's feet, and legs should they get caught up. And even worse if your horse rolls on a lose and disguised piece of barb in the grass! You’re best avoiding any area with barbed fencing. If neighbouring properties have barb, create a separate fence line in front of the barb with adequate space between the two fences. And, walk the fence line regularly to check the integrity of the fencing, and to pick up or tidy up and barb that has come loose and may be a threat to your horse.

Here are a few factors to consider when fencing paddocks:
Terrain, budget, aesthetics and maintenance. Fences should be ideally between 4 ½ and 5 feet tall to safely contain horses. 

If you have foals then also make the fence 6 to 8 inches off te ground, you don't want foals rolling out of the paddock.
It will also discourage horses from sticking their heads under the fence to graze. 

What material is best?

Well, theres so much variety out there here is but a few:

Wooden
Wooden fences are highly visible, and strong. They are some of the best fences for horses. Injury risk is very low in comparison to wire. Wooden fences can withstand a lot of pressure and are usually pretty difficult for your horse to duck and dive out of, due to the solid nature of the wood. However, they are easy for horses to chew (a behaviour none of us wants from our horse), and do deteriorate over time with rain and winds. They can also be expensive to install and maintain. If you have the cash to splash. Wooden fencing may be for you.

Wire
Woven wire is poorly visible to horses. But is one of the more inexpensive options for fencing. You can improve the visibility of this fence by using a top board or electrified tape at the top, this will make the fencing more visible and stop your horse from leaning! 

V-mesh wire is classed as one of the safest fencing options out there. This type of fence, kind of like chicken wire, has a diamond pattern that makes it effective at keeping smaller animals out and keeping horses in. Its pretty durable, but does come with injury risk should your horse get caught in it. The other downside is cost; it is the most expensive wire fence.

Smooth wire fences are not desirable for horses, due to their poor visibility. They are some of the most difficult fences for horses to see. The wire can be coated with PVC making it more visible. But there are better options out there. Smooth wire is fairly inexpensive, a pro. But, again, there are other low-cost options.

PVC

While very visually pleasing, and very easy for horses to see. It's perhaps the weakest form of fencing when it comes to horses. PVC fencing is also extremely costly. Due to the fact it is designed to break under pressure, it's perhaps not so good for horses who like to lean and scratch on fencing - let's face it, that's most horses. However, you can use some type of electric fencing in conjunction with PVC fence, as we know that horses will soon learn that the boards will give if leaned on, but the electrical wire will stop this from happening. 


Electric

Electric fencing can be used by itself or in conjunction with almost any other type of fence. Usually, it is used in conjunction rather than on its own. Electric wire and tape are very inexpensive and can help to protect other more expensive fencing by acting as a buffer for your ordinary fencing. Some do not like electric fencing, it is down to preference. Most horses will learn not to lean or barge fences after one shock from a hot wire. However, electric fences are not essential, and do not have to be used to keep your horse from escaping. 

Conclusion

There are so many options when it comes to fencing; the key thing is choosing what is right for your horse. Each horse is different, and you should consider what puts your horse at the least risk. Horses are expensive, its part of the parcel. It's recommended spending a little more on the right fence, and saving a lot of stress and vet bills! 
 

Siobhain Little