Anyone who owns, trains, or boards horses can tell you that fencing is an absolute necessity. If your paddock is unfenced, it’s practically a guarantee that your horses will find a way to wander off — or worse, a dangerous animal might find their way into your stables.
Fencing helps keep your horses safe from the outside world. However, it’s also important that your fencing keeps your horses safe while they’re inside! This is why so many horse owners spend hours (even days) agonizing over which type of horse fencing is the safest for their animals.
So, what is the safest horse fencing? Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer. Nearly every fence type has its pros and cons, and the fencing you use will depend on a number of different factors, from your budget to your horses’ temperaments. The final choice is up to you — but here’s what you need to know to find the safest horse fence for your land.Smooth Wire Fences
Smooth wire fencing is (as the name suggests) made from smooth wire, which typically runs horizontally around your horses’ paddock. Smooth wire fences can come in a variety of metals, but the most common are aluminum and steel.
There are many benefits to using smooth wire fencing for your horses’ enclosure. This type of fencing is incredibly inexpensive, which makes it a great choice for individuals on a budget. It’s also very easy to install, which can be a benefit if you don’t want to spend a whole weekend putting up a new fence.
However, smooth wire fencing has one major drawback: horses (and sometimes people) can’t really see it. This means that they may not notice when they reach the fence line, which might result in a collision with the wires. If a horse — or a child — runs at that fence full speed, you can expect more than a few nasty cuts!Woven Wire Fences
Woven wire fencing, like smooth wire, uses steel to create an enclosure for your horses. However, while smooth wire fencing is made up of single lines of horizontal wire stretched across your fence posts, woven fencing creates a mesh-like pattern that covers your fenced area from top to bottom, offering greater protection from predators and escape.
The mesh pattern is designed with a tight, knotted weave so that horses can’t stick their hooves through the fence. Plus, it will flex on impact, so the fence will spring back when pushed, rather than break, which means you’re less likely to find a horse with a cut leg or hide after an escape attempt.
On the other hand, woven wire fencing shares drawbacks with smooth wire fencing. The fact is that horses simply have a hard time seeing it! A single board is recommended on top of the fence to make it more visible. This also prevents horses from necking down the wire. With routine maintenance, this fence will keep your horses safe and secure for years.Electric Fences
Electric fencing uses conductive wire to dispense a high-voltage electrical current along the length of your fence. This wire will give anyone (human, horse, or other animal) a significant “jolt” when they touch it — though it is important to note that veterinarians agree that the jolt from an electric fence is not enough to do any real harm.
Electric fences work as both a physical and a psychological deterrent for your horses. Trust us, after one jolt, your horse is not going to be interested in chewing on, leaning on, or being anywhere that’s too close to your fence line! This can be particularly great for horses who like to try and break out of their paddocks.
But while electric fences can be a great psychological deterrent, their physical ability leaves something to be desired. It’s hard to see, and if one of your horses DOES try to run through your electric wire fencing, he or she probably won’t need much strength to knock it down. Electric fencing requires careful maintenance and constant tightening, along with a consistent supply of power.Wood Fences
Think of a horse stable, paddock, or riding arena. There’s probably a specific image that comes to your mind: wooden stables off to one side, a grassy field, and a large wooden post and rail fence. This is quintessential “horse fencing” look, and it’s persisted over the years for one main reason — it’s beautiful.
Wooden fencing looks great, is easy to see (a huge benefit for the horses), and it tends to last a very long time. These are all excellent reasons to install a wooden fence on your property, but it is also important to consider the potential drawbacks of this type of fencing.
Firstly, wooden fencing can be very expensive to buy and install. Secondly, any wood structure that’s left outside will eventually suffer damage from exposure to the elements; your wood fence will need regular upkeep (which adds to your overall cost). Finally, wooden fences are far from “horse proof.” A spooked horse that runs full-speed into a wooden fence is not likely to stay enclosed — but it is likely to leave you with some expensive repairs and a hefty vet’s bill!Pipe Fences
Pipe fencing is made up of recycled steel or aluminum, resulting in an industrial, modern alternative to the wooden post and rail. This fencing is very strong and long lasting. Because it is made of metal, this fencing is even less likely to suffer damage from the elements than wood fences. It’s also highly visible, which can help prevent collisions.
However, pipe fencing does come with similar drawbacks to wood fences. The material is expensive to transport and install (even if you live in an area with plenty of available pipe), and often you need to hire (and pay) a professional to cut and install the pipes properly. Finally, pipe steel fences have virtually no “give” — which can lead to serious problems if a horse does collide with your fence.
Keep in mind that both post & rail wood and pipe style fences are designed with horizontal cross members that leave plenty of room at the bottom for foals to escape or, even worse, predators to enter the pasture.Other Considerations
As you search for the right horse fencing for your property, it’s important to keep in mind other factors that might help shape your decision.
How much area do you plan to enclose? How many gates will you need? Do you want to use wood posts, metal t-posts, or both? Do the soil conditions in your paddock make one fence type more effective than the others? And (perhaps most importantly) do you have horses who like to make a break for it?
The answers to these questions (plus any others you think of) will help you find the type of horse fencing that best suits your unique needs. With careful consideration and a little extra research, you’ll be able to find the fencing that keeps all your beautiful horses safe.
Dain Rakestraw is the Director of Marketing and Client Services at Red Brand, a line of premium agricultural fencing products known as the most recognized brand of agricultural fencing in the United States. Learn more at https://www.redbrand.com/.