Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts on Horse Safe(r) Fencing

(post by Jason) Most of you know that we board a lot of horses and we had the chance to build out a farm completely from scratch. The property was absolutely bare when we bought it and we needed to build every bit of infrastructure from driveways to barns, run-in sheds, fences, and water and electrical lines. A large part of our initial research and time was spent thinking about fencing and we knew that no matter what we chose it was going to be a major expenditure. We had already been in the boarding business for several years and we had seen horses get hurt on every type of supposedly horse safe fence.

It's my opinion that perimeter fencing for any sort of livestock should ideally offer some combination of physical AND mental barrier. This is doubly true where there is a chance that animals could get out and wind up on a road or highway. We wound up using four board wood fence with every post cemented in place as our physical barrier. Between our perimeter fence and some of our interior cross fencing we have several miles of four board fence.

The morning sun made my favorite curve in the driveway look especially pretty this morning.  We have miles and miles of four board wood fence.

The major problem with any sort of wood fence is that it deteriorates over time. Horses are extremely hard on any type of fence and they really, really like to scratch their butts and/or crib on the top couple boards of a wood fence. Our experience is that horses will ruin any sort of non-electric fence pretty quickly, especially if there is a shared fence line with horses on both sides. With that in mind we ran a strand of electrical wire across the top board on all of the wood fencing and we make sure to keep that strand very, very hot. I can smile when I say that we've yet to have a horse scratch on the fence and we also haven't had a horse manage to hurt itself on the fence yet either. I am sure it will happen eventually; it always does, but once they have been zapped a couple of times they really respect electric fence. The safest fence for any horse is a fence they respect.

We weren't sure where we wanted to put our first cross fence and after a lot of research we wound up using white t-post covers from Centaur and three strands of 1 inch electric tape for our initial temporary fence. Three years later we are still using it. I am most impressed with this stuff. Again, we keep all three strands of electric tape extremely hot. The fence is quite attractive to the eye and is highly visible; the horses have never touched it. As an added bonus, we had a tree land on it and after I sawed it up the fence sprang right back into place. Try that with any sort of board or wire fence !! It took the two of us a few hours one afternoon to put up a half mile of  this fence. If we decide to re-size a pasture we can do so with minimal labour and expense which is not something that's possible with any permanent fence solution.

The grey horses got the memo today that I needed a picture of the white fence.  George, Asterik, Silver and Gus grazing.

At the end of the day the right kind of fence on your farm may not be the same kind of fence we use on our farm but so far we are happy with our result.



Silver and Gus grooming, Romeo and Lotus grazing

Johnny getting groomed on both sides by Tiny and Rampal

Levendi and Moe

Clayton was watching me but Stormy wasn't interested

Cuffie and Norman

Faune, Winston and George



Johnny leading the charge in for dinner followed by Murphy, Sam, Dutch and Wiz

 as they got closer I could see Johnny's lower lip flopping in rhythm with his gate


lytha said...

Perfect timing. I am trying to learn how to optimize the voltage on my electric fence. We mow under it pretty much constantly, keeping grass off, and I trim blackberry branches off too. I had our voltage drop from 6K to 1K one day, and that was one wire touching one Tpost. I fixed that and still can't get the fence over 4K. I could turn it up on the controller, but I really don't want 10K volts unless the donkey starts challenging it. I wonder if too many connectors (where two wires are spliced) inhibits voltage? Does any sort of wrapping around a Tpost cap inhibit voltage?

I guess I should look up the specs on the charger again.

I'd appreciate your feedback in optimizing my fence.

My dream fence has no electricity and no wood to be chewed: it's a 10 foot brick wall: )

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

Hi Lytha;

Short circuits on electric fences are hard to fix for sure. We run our controller high; in our experience 5000 volts is the minimum acceptable charge for horses, donkeys and cows. At 3000 volts or less if I grab the fence I can't feel it if it's dry and I'm wearing work boots. We want to be sure to have plenty of voltage available to overcome grass or vines touching it. Hope this helps !


spotz58 said...

I always have one wire not-hot, set up to act as a ground. Most of the year we are either dry dry dry (so dry the ground does not carry the charge back to the ground rods) or deep snow and/or ice (a great insulator as well). Our charger is grounded to both a ground rod system (3 rods 8 feet deep) and the not-hot wires of the fence. If the horse doesn't ground well the fence doesn't affect him!