Fencing and Gates

Effective fencing helps keep a horse enclosed to a specific area, keeping it safe and preventing it from straying or getting into any unwanted locations. Laws in many countries require owners to use adequate means to contain their horses in a field. The type of fence needed depends on the type of horse. For example, a high single-rail fence can keep in a 17-hand warmblood, but may allow enough room for a Shetland pony to walk underneath. Weight should also be taken into account because a large draft horse could push through a fence that may be enough to contain a pony. Hedges can also provide suitable containment, as long as they are dense and free of poisonous plants. A fence can also be less effective during the winter months; snow drifts reduce the effective height and can make gaps in hedges.

Fences

Post and rail fences are considered the standard when it comes to fencing. They are strong, sturdy, and attractive. Although the next best thing to hedges, it can get expensive. Good weather-resistant lumber with a nontoxic preservative should be used.

If well-built, with the wire stretched tight, a plain round wire fence may serve as a protective barrier. Use five or six strands, with the bottom one at least 12" above the ground. Use markers, such as strips of white cloth, so that the wires are visible because there is always a possibility that the horse won’t see them and may gallop directly into the fence.

Tape fencing consists of strong plastic tape stretched between wooden posts. It may not look as traditional as post and rail fencing, but it is cheaper and can be just as effective and can be set up with an electric current. The white tape is also highly visible, and is long-lasting because the material doesn’t rot.

Electric fencing is effective, especially if used with another fence. When a horse touches the wire, it receives a small shock, so this should not be used with a thin-skinned horse. The wire should be made visible for safety. The wire does not provide a sufficient barrier if the current is off; horses are intelligent enough to learn that they will only get shocked when they hear the characteristic clicking that the fence makes while it is on.

Barbed wire may work well for sheep or cattle, but it is not good for horses because of their fine skin. Some kinds of wire mesh may also be unsafe; if a horse puts its foot through the mesh, it may be unable to pull its leg free without experiencing injury.

Fence Maintenance

Check fences regularly and repair them if necessary before a horse escapes or injures itself. Wire strands can stretch and may possibly need to be tightened. The sections of the post that are buried under the ground rot faster than the exposed sections, so they should be checked carefully. Fences should be painted with a non-toxic preservative about every two years.

Gates

Gates should open into the field so that the horse cannot push its way out. Wooden gates are relatively light. It is worth fitting good-quality hinges and fastenings because these make opening and closing the gate much easier. Like fences, they need regular painting with wood preservative. Heavy-duty metal gates are strong and last a long time if they are aluminum or properly rust proofed. Metal gates can be heavy and difficult to handle. Also, if a horse does try to get over the gate or gets its leg trapped in the bars, it can be seriously injured because the bars don’t break.

Please Note: These are suggestions. If you have any questions, please contact your veterinarian or local horse professional.



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