Horses are a ranching staple, world-recognized athletes, and a favorite pastime for more than 1.6 million people in the US alone (and possibly as many as 30 million people globally). That means you’ll find rural landscapes dotted with horse farms both big and small, far beyond the bluegrass hills of Kentucky.
Horses are also a big investment of time, money, and emotions. Compared to other types of livestock, horse owners tend to spend more time debating products, practices, and opinions. And that leads to a lot of questions when it comes to horse fencing.
If you’re new to the horse hobby, or at least taking a fresh look at new trends or products to update your fencing, here’s what you really need to know:
- Horses are large animals and require tall, strong fences.
- They’re prey animals and have a tendency to run, so safety is key.
- Different breeds and different herds may have different needs.
- Horses jump, and some might try to paw, climb, or chew so durability is also important.
Best Height for Horse Fencing
Horses are fairly tall. They’re measured at the withers–the dorsal point where their shoulder blades meet at the base of their neck. Miniature horses can be under two feet tall at the withers, while most full-size horse and pony breeds are at least four to five feet tall.
However, in the horse world, height is rarely measured in feet, or inches. It’s measured in hands–a unique unit of measure to the horse industry that equates one hand to four inches (or the average width of an adult male hand).
The best fence height for most breeds is between 54 and 60 inches (approximately five feet). Sport breeds used for jumping, draft breeds, and stallions may require taller fencing.
What is a Horse-Safe Fence?
There are many different fencing materials used on the farm. Wood, wire, and steel pipe are some of the most common, with each offering several more options for creating a durable pasture fence.
When choosing the best material, it’s important to keep in mind that horses are prey animals. When it comes to fight or flight–they will almost always choose flight. That means, they’re prone to run out of fear. Since that fear response isn’t always logical, it’s not uncommon for these animals to accidentally run or slide through a fence.
More than one-quarter (27%) of horse owners surveyed have treated an animal for a fence-related injury. These injuries are often significant enough to call for veterinary treatment.
Since horses are more likely than other types of livestock to accidentally come into contact with a fence, animal safety is typically a big priority. Here’s what you can do to choose a horse-safe fence:
- Choose a Highly Visible Material
- Create a Solid Boundary with Some Flexibility (Ability to Give with High Impact)
- Avoid Sharp Edges (Barbed Wire, Awkward Protrusions)
- Use Rounded Corners When Possible
- Keep Up On Routine Fence Maintenance
Consider Animal-Specific Needs
There is a lot of advice on horse fencing that is geared toward a general audience. However, every animal and every herd has unique attributes. If your animals tend to be docile grazers with little interaction between animals, general fencing guidelines are appropriate. However, if you have an aggressive animal, a breeding animal that might be prone to cyclical behavior changes, or a particularly rambunctious group of horses–plan for an extra layer of precaution.
For example, adding a single hot strand of electric wire above the top wire or top board of an existing fence can add height and reinforcement for animals that might otherwise push the fence line. It can also be a good way to keep horses that chew wood out of boredom off of fence boards.
Horses Need Durable Fence Options
Horses tend to weigh between 1,200 and 2,000 pounds, plus they can run up to 35 miles per hour in a straight line. Between the daily abuse of trying to graze grass on the other side of the fence and those moments when a horse just can’t get stopped in time, horse fencing needs to be durable enough to withstand the demands of large livestock.
Durability comes from:
- Fence Material
- Construction & Craftsmanship
- Weather Exposure
For example, a wood board fence built with pressure-treated lumber provides a solid barrier with enough flexibility that the boards should break before causing serious harm to an animal. It provides good, long-lasting durability for multiple years but does require a fair amount of maintenance to paint or re-treat boards to protect from weather exposure and prevent wood rot.
Electric fence is made from galvanized wire and won’t rot, but it provides a less solid boundary with low visibility that may result in a tangled–and injured animal. Woven wire fence is a good compromise between the two. The mesh design offers more visibility and durability, creating a solid perimeter while offering a cost-effective and low-maintenance fencing option.
Final Tips for Horse Fencing
Choosing the best type of horse fencing is a complex decision that depends on individual preferences and priorities. With more than 130 years of agriculture fencing expertise, Red Brand believes that the best fencing starts with quality materials. We recommend considering animal safety, unique herd behaviors, and overall durability as you shop the dozens of different horse fencing options available. Shop with Red Brand today.