Horses are an imperfect combination of majestic beauty, large size, and an easily triggered flight response. Despite their size and strength, horses are prey animals driven to spook easily and run fast. These combinations don’t pair well with the pasture fencing materials designed to keep them contained and safe.
It’s the plight of every horse owner–how to keep their animals safe from the fencing that protects them from the world around them. You won’t be able to train the prey animal instincts out of them, but you can take steps like adding visibility to your fence line and choosing the right fencing materials to protect your animals.
Choose the Right Fencing Materials
There’s one universal golden rule when it comes to horse fencing–avoid barbed wire. This specific type of tensioned wire fence is characterized by twisted-wire barbs that inflict serious injury if contact is made at high speeds.
Appropriate horse fencing materials range from treated wood boards and high-tensile hot wire to vinyl coated wire or woven wire field fences. Each of these materials offers durable, blunt surfaces that are preferable for horse fencing.
How accident-prone are horses? In one survey, half of all fencing-related injuries involved emergency veterinary care. The best-case scenario is a few stitches after a run-in with a fence. However, some animals suffered deeper lacerations, blunt-force trauma, torn muscle, and broken bones. Despite the size and strength of these animals, they have a tendency to be a little less hardy when major injuries are involved.
With horses, a broken bone is never just a broken bone. Even a hairline fracture can fail to heal, and when the injury is in a leg, the risk of secondary complications like laminitis and founder goes up exponentially.
With all that’s on the line, choosing the right fencing materials is one step toward preventing fencing injuries with horses.
Focus on Security and Visibility
If a spooked horse makes contact with a fence, either the fence is going to break, or the injuries to the animal will be serious. This means that the best measure of protection is to focus on providing a secure fence with high-visibility. Many horse owners prefer a sight board on top of their woven fence for maximum safety.
Another cost-effective option is to use high-visibility mesh tape with woven strands of hot wire. This fencing material gives a wide ribbon in white or yellow for each horizontal line on the fence, but it also adds an electrical element to enforce respect so that horses don’t push through the fence.
Consider Durability and Strength
Big animals need strong fences, but there are as many risks with a fence that is too strong as there are with a fence that is not strong enough. A welded steel pipe fence is one of the most durable fencing options. It’s not likely to break under any amount of natural force. Unfortunately, that means that animals can sustain severe injuries if accidental contact is made. Blunt force trauma can irreparably damage soft tissues, and internal organs, and break bones–in some cases; these injuries can be catastrophic, resulting in the death of the animal.
Woven wire, high-tensile wire, and wood are all common horse fencing materials. And it’s equally common to find horse owners using a combination of materials. While wood provides a strong, durable fencing option, horses tend to chew on wood. A hot strand running along the top board of a fence is an effective deterrent that can prolong the life of most fencing materials. Similarly, woven wire panels are considered to be safe and durable, meeting both aesthetic and strength needs.
A Few More Things to Keep in Mind
Fencing is only one part of the equation. If you’re looking for ways to keep your horses safe and prevent fence collisions, here are a few more tips that will help keep your herd safely confined.
- Weather Conditions: Horses can get spooked when a strong front rolls in, causing a lot of extra ruckus in the pasture and increasing the chance of an accident. Be mindful of changing weather conditions and bring your herd in before conditions start to change.
- Stay on Top of Fence Maintenance: Routinely walk your fence line. Check for downed wires, loose posts, and rotten boards that might cause an injury.
- Know your Herd: Horses are social animals and group dynamics are easily disrupted when new animals are introduced. Take steps to introduce new animals slowly to prevent a rowdy group from pushing a new horse through the fence.
- Remove Sharp Edges: Uncapped t-posts, barbs, and damaged fencing materials are accidents waiting to happen. Hardware placement on gates can also present a danger. It’s important to take steps to ensure that there are no sharp edges–no matter how small.
Horse fencing do’s and don’ts can make you feel like you’re working a balancing act, trying to find cost-effective fencing options that don’t break any of the long lists of horse-friendly fencing rules. While barbed wire is common on many farms, it’s not a suitable choice for horses. And while you can buy welded wire panels in a variety of gauges, even for larger animals, you still need to be careful that your animals can’t accidentally get a hoof stuck in the grid. Horses are high-maintenance animals with high-maintenance fencing needs. Luckily, the best option is also the most affordable option.
Final Thoughts on Preventing Fencing Injuries
Horses are undoubtedly a little flightier and more accident-prone than other animals. These animals have size and strength, and in a moment of panic–plenty of speed. This is a bad combination when it comes to accidental collisions with a fence line. While you probably want a durable, strong fence that will do the job it’s meant to do, you also want a fence that will flex under extreme pressure. If your animal becomes entangled with a fence, it’s better to have a little give with a blunt surface that is less likely to cause deep cuts.