Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thoughts on Fencing

I know I have mentioned more than once that I am not a huge fan of our miles of four board wood fencing. People are always so surprised when I say that so I thought I would explain my perspective. I love the look of wood fencing as much as the next person, I will definitely admit that. Nothing is more attractive to me than a horse farm with pretty green pastures surrounded by board fencing . . . kind of like where I live right now! Even in our large pastures though the wood fence always seems to be an accident looking for a place to happen with the horses. On top of that I also find the wood fencing to be extremely high maintenance.

We could cut down on some of the maintenance such as fence chewing and broken boards by running a strand of electric along the wood fence. However one of the caveats here that we have to work with is no electric fencing anywhere. Unfortunately we have to live with that restriction and no amount of griping is going to change it so I don't dwell on it too much. However, even a strand of electric still won't eliminate the problem. The confirmed cribbers and wood chewers learn quickly enough to just drop their head down to the next board where there isn't an electric strand.

On the rare occasion that we have an injury here, almost 100% of the time it is related to the wood fence. A horse either rolls too close to the fence and gets a leg(s) through it or they stand by the fence and kick out at something or stomp at a fly and get a leg through it. It doesn't matter if the fence is brand new, if a horse puts a leg or a hoof against a board with enough force or momentum it is going to break and splinter, period.

I do think it is very important to have a solid perimeter fence though. This doesn't necessarily mean a wood fence but two strands of sagging electric probably aren't the safest choice for a perimeter fence. On the same hand I would like to have more flexibility with cross fencing. Once you have permanent fencing in place, be it board fence or no-climb wire mesh fence, centaur fencing, or whatever it may be you have lost your ability to be flexible.

For example, if we have a spot come available in the mare field, the only horse that can take that spot is a mare, or possibly the right gelding. If we have a spot come available where the big boys live, the only horse that can take that spot is a gelding that can run with a younger crowd and play. Likewise, if a spot becomes available in the geezer gelding field well, you guessed it, a geezer gelding will need to take that spot. The pasture sizes are set and permanent and it takes away any flexibility. If the cross fencing were, for example, three or four strands of electric fencing (well done electric, not the previously mentioned sagging strands of electric) you could modify your pasture sizes and have a lot more flexibility in being able to accommodate different horses on the farm.

Interestingly when you look up the statistics on fencing in regards to horse safety and injuries, electric is the safest choice for horses. No climb wire mesh is next on the safety list (this should not be confused with 'field fencing' that is wire fence for cows). Board fencing ranks behind them for safety. The PVC fencing (the plasticy stuff that is supposed to sort of look like board fence) ranks even lower, I guess because it sometimes shatters on impact, especially in cold weather. We do have a couple of long cross fences that are the no climb wire mesh, and I have to say that the horses have yet to find a way to hurt themselves on it. I say yet because at some point one of them will manage it, no doubt!

I guess my dream farm would have a solid perimeter fence of either board fence with a strand or two of electric, no climb wire fence, Centaur fencing, or something along those lines. The cross fencing would be some version of nicely done electric to allow for flexibility and variations in pasture sizes. Now that I've said that I will probably wind up with miles of board fencing until the day I die. I guess there are worse fates in life than that!

Thomas strolling through the pasture looking very happy

Lucky and Slinky grazing with a lovely wood fence behind them

The sub rooster looking regal on the bench in front of the barn

Faune and Asterik grazing in front of my arena

Lily in the back with her head up, she was the only one who noticed me, while Cuffie and Harmony graze


Trillion and Winston grazing while B-Rad and Asterik hang out

Missy and MyLight

Elfin is hiding behind Homer and Ivan is on the right



Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of wood either, although it works well for perimeter fencing. No climb small-mesh wire is very good, and diamond mesh is even better although too expensive except for small areas. We do internal subdivision of our pastures with electric tape and it works very well. I'm also intrigued by the wide-strand electric tape that comes in rolls and looks like board fencing when it's up - it's attractive and very low maintenance although it requires reinforced corner posts and isn't suitable for rolling terrain - it works better on the flat.

Thanks for the pictures of the happy horses!

Jen said...

Why can't you have electric fencing? I agree the board fencing is nice looking but a pain in the butt! I love our electric fence; it really does the job :)

Java's Mom said...

As you know we have Centaur, and have had Java roll into in, legs on the wrong sides, kick it, rub her eye on it, lot of things that wood would pose a problem for a horse and it has been great. What is a little "interesting" is when someone comes to look at the barn and they think it can break, stretch like silly putty, or cut their legs. I'm not that good at being diplomatic, but I explain the safety, etc. Some people just don't understand it. That's OK. SO if it helps to make you feel better, there are pros and cons to it all.

And: do you guys use mostly two paddocks (one mares, one geldings) and do you ever need a sacrafice paddock or are your pastures so large and growing season so long (jealous) that you don't need them? Or, maybe you rotate the two groups over more than two paddocks so one is resting. SOrry long comment, but I'm wondering... and you'll be helping me with a decision here for another paddock we are to install... thank you.

Jason said...

Java's mom;

We use 6 paddocks with sacrifice areas in most of them for when it gets muddy in the winter. We have a grand total of 40 horses...all but three of them retirees, on just more than 100 acres. In our part of the world mud is not nearly the concern it is in the NE and southern Canada, although it gets plenty muddy at times. There is some growth on our grasses 12 months of the year although from Christmas until the end of February we alternate between growing periods and dormant periods depending heavily on what the temperature has done the past few days. Two and a half acres per horse on our type of land is about the maximum stocking density if one is going to count on grazing to supply most of the nutrition. This land per horse allocation could be reduced considerably by practicing a modified form of rotational grazing. It could also be reduced considerably if the capability of the land was higher (ie deeper soils and less slopes), hence my propensity/fetish for flood plain land ! :)

Our biggest concern down here is summer drought...not so much because it doesn't rain...it does, but evapotranspiration rates are very high in July/August leading to a water deficit.