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Fencing for Horses

Fencing for HorsesFencing in a horse pasture

Horse owners must have adequate fencing to safely contain and manage their horses. Fencing often is considered just a means of containing horses, which is especially important in urban areas. But fencing is much more than that. Daily labor needs and routines are influenced by the fencing plan.

The key to good horse fencing is proper construction and adequate maintenance.  Safety of the handlers, visitors and the horses must receive first priority in designing horse fencing. Cost is a major consideration, but it should not dictate unsafe or inefficient fencing. While aesthetics should be considered, it should not overrule safe, functional fencing. For example, do not place boards on the outside of posts just because it looks nicer; it’s safer for horses and more functional to place the boards on the inside of the posts where leaning against the fence will not loosen boards.

Barbed wire should not be used for horses, and electric fencing alone is not recommended for perimeter fences. However, because horses are sensitive to electric shock, they can be easily trained to respect electric fences. A major concern is visibility. Electric fencing made of wide tape addresses this concern, but those tapes tend to be relatively poor conductors and do not last long. Another option is plastic-coated, 12.5-gauge, hightensile wire developed specifically for the horse industry. It is more visible, attractive and safer than uncoated wire. Plastic-coated horeswire, an example of permanent fencing wire, is more visible and less likely to cut a horse that may run into it

If wire is used, it should be smooth. A fence made of 12.5-gauge, high-tensile wire with a tape for visibility works well. If electric fencing is used for perimeter fencing, four to five strands should be used. The top wire should be 40-50 inches above the ground.

Choose fencing that safely meets your economic and aesthetic needs. To minimize damage and maintenance to your fences, consider using an electric strand on top of PVC or wooden fencing if your horse is a cribber or if it chews.

Keep in mind a few basic fencing needs of horses when you make your choice. The general rule is that the top of the fence should be at eye level to the horse. This discourages horses from fighting over the fence. Examples of temporary fencing wire

Lightweight, temporary electric fencing consisting of polytape, polyrope or polywire strung on lightweight plastic or fiberglass posts works well for dividing a pasture into paddocks in a rotational-grazing system. Use of small, uncoated, 14-gauge or 18-gauge wire commonly used with cattle is not recommended because it is not safe for horses, primarily because they cannot see it. Because of their poor eyesight, horses often make contact with the electric fence, which shocks them and makes them run. This can be disastrous if the wire gets wrapped around a horse’s leg. The small wire can also cut horses when they run into it.

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New Jersey Pasture Management Guide for Horse Owners
Pasture Management Guide for Horse Owners (PDF, 2.15 MB)