Horse Fencing: Is There a Best Choice?

Post-and-board, vinyl constructed plank, braided tape, coated high-tensile wire, pipe: Many effective equine fencing options are available. However, there are no hard-and-fast rules as to which is the best choice, explained Bob Coleman, PhD, Equine Extension professor in the University of Kentucky's Department of Animal Sciences.

Rather, choosing a fencing style for your property comes down to looking at both your needs and the options available to you. "What is suitable on your farm is something you're going to have to decide," Coleman noted. "This means setting aside preconceived notions."

One parameter that plays a key role in fencing options is location. Coleman explained that material availability coupled with construction practices in an area often dictate which fencing styles are most readily available. For example, a four-board fence might be your best bet in Kentucky, whereas a pipe fence might be more the norm in Oklahoma.

The next question addresses the functionality of fence type for the management style of the horses on the property. "A whole host of things comes down to what it is I'm trying to accomplish with my fencing," said Coleman.

For example, many farm owners use an electric fencing option to subdivide large pastures and then construct a more substantial fence to surround the property's perimeter.

"Consider how much pressure will be put on a fence, such as in areas where horses congregate," noted Coleman. The fence should provide both a physical and a psychological barrier. Some horses, such as stallions, young horses, and mares with foals, might require a greater physical barrier for safety, with an eye toward height and gaps. An electric wire on top rails might be necessary for those horses that don't respect the fence or are inclined to chew.

You might also have requirements external to your farm, such as being located in a residential area in which you may need to control outside pets' access to pastures with wire mesh. Appearance can also play a role, such as at boarding, training, and sales businesses--fence type and quality is a big part of a visitor's first impression of the farm.

"The pros and cons kind of become the same thing for all of the fences," remarked Coleman. "Regardless of the kind of fence you might use, you want to see that it is properly constructed, with the right size of posts and the right dimensions. The longevity of the fence in a lot of cases will be predetermined by how well it's been built and how well it's been maintained. Good construction and good maintenance will go a long way toward the safety of the fence."

When choosing the optimal fencing for your property, Coleman recommends talking with other farm owners and consulting with professionals. Formulate a budget based not only on construction material and labor costs, but also on maintenance and upkeep.

"Spend your money wisely. Buy quality, durable construction. Make sure the fence is suitable for the horses it needs to contain, which means good visibility, right size, and built to withstand excessive horse pressure," explained Coleman. "Look at all of the options and price it out. Look at utility, construction, and maintenance over the long term. Don't start out thinking it has to be 'a certain style of fence.' There may be nothing wrong with 'that style,' but there may also be something just as good or better out there. Good purchasing decisions pay off in the long run."

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