PHOTO: David Clow/Flickr
June 27, 2016

If you’re planning on adding horses to the ever-expanding list of animals on your farm, you’ve probably discovered that building a fence for your farm horses isn’t a simple task. With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to know what type of fence will be perfect for your horses. To help you sort through the process, here are some tips and advice for building the best farm horse fence possible, that will keep your animals contained and happy.

What To Think About When Fencing Horses

There are many things to consider when building a horse fence, and before you begin, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What size pasture do you need? If you’re only keeping a horse or two, a relatively small paddock might suffice, but the more horses you have, the more fencing you’ll need.
  2. What will it cost? For small paddocks, you might be able to afford more expensive and attractive fencing like wooden board fences; if you’re planning to build a larger paddock, less expensive options, like electric fencing, might be a better choice.
  3. How tall should the fence be? Generally speaking, for an average-sized horse, 5 feet tall or slightly less is a general standard for fence height, but you can adjust according to the size of your horses. If you’re keeping miniature horses, for example, then a tall fence designed for Clydesdales would be more than you need.

Good Fences For Horses

Clydesdale horses along fenceline
James Raynard/Flickr

Although many types of fencing exist, a few are superior when it comes to a farm horse fence. Some of the best fence types include:

  • Wooden Board Fences: It’s hard to top the beauty and presence of a wooden board fence, which brings to mind images of lush pastures and galloping Thoroughbreds in the heart of Kentucky. Wooden board fences are strong and safe for farm horses, and it’s hard to beat their visibility—there’s almost no way a horse can avoid seeing a board fence!—but they are much more expensive than other options and don’t last as long.
  • Electric Fences: When it comes to building a horse fence, electric fences are safer, simpler and less expensive than the competition. A four- or five-wire electric fence will require a few extra materials—such as a charger and grounding rods—but they are considered to be among the safest options for horse fences, and you can build long fences without racking up a huge bill. Be sure to use polymer-coated wires or wires woven into polymer tape or rope.
  • PVC Board Fences: Similar in appearance to wooden board fences, PVC board fences are less expensive and don’t require quite as much maintenance, but often lack the strength of their wooden counterparts.
  • Mesh Wire: Mesh wire, with small square- or diamond-shaped gaps, can make excellent fencing for horses. Falling in between electric and board fences in terms of cost, mesh wire is generally safe and doesn’t require much maintenance.

Bad Fences For Horses

While any of the above-mentioned types of fencing are well-suited to containing farm horses, there are a few fence types that should not be considered due to safety issues.

  • Barbed Wire: Barbed wire is considered to be a definite no for a farm horse fence, as horses can run into or become tangled in the fence and injure themselves on the sharp barbs.
  • Certain Types Of Mesh Wire: Although mesh wire, as mentioned above, can make a good horse fence, it’s important to make sure that the openings in the mesh are not too large; if a horse can slip its hoof through the openings, there’s a chance that the hoof could become stuck and the horse could be injured. With any mesh wire, make sure that the gaps in the wire are small enough to eliminate the risk of horses trapping their hooves in the fence.
  • Uncoated Smooth Wire: A relative of barbed wire, smooth wire is often used in high-tensile fences similar to electric fences, but unless a brightly-colored coating is applied, it can be difficult for horses to see and therefore a less-than-safe option. For more on fence types and visibility, visit the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website.

Materials Needed For Building A Horse Fence

horse fence
Steven Martin/Flickr

The exact materials that you will need to build a farm horse fence will vary depending on the type that you choose.

Posts

Unless you’re using trees (not recommended) or taking an unusual route and building giant stone fences, you’re going to need posts to support your fence. Posts are usually made from wood, steel, plastic or fiberglass. All have advantages and disadvantages, and while wooden posts can rot over time and require insulation from electric fences, they are a great choice when strength is required, and even in fences that use steel or fiberglass posts for the line posts, wooden posts are often used for the corners.

Fasteners/Insulators

The exact type will vary depending on what type of fence you choose to build, but you’ll need proper fasteners for attaching the fencing material to the posts. For wooden board fences, this can be nails or screws; for mesh wire, it might be staples. In addition, for electric fences, the fasteners will need to be insulated to keep the wires from touching wooden or steel posts, where the electric current can follow the post into the ground and interrupt the proper flow of electricity.

Gates

Gates come in many shapes, sizes, and materials, with steel tube gates being among the most durable and popular. Be sure to choose a gate that is wide enough not only for horses, but also for machines. If you envision needing to bring machinery inside the pasture (perhaps to mow the grass), you won’t want to discover after the fence is built that you’re gate isn’t wide enough.

Electric Fence Charger and Grounding Rods

If you have an electric fence, you’ll need a quality low-impedance charger with enough power to charge the entire length of your fence—be sure to measure the distance of the fence you’re building and purchase a charger rated for that length of fence. Several metal grounding rods, 6 feet long, will also be needed to complete the electric circuit.

How To Install A Farm Horse Fence

Although the details of building a horse fence can vary greatly, there are a few basic steps you can follow to help build the perfect fence.

Step 1

Scouting out the pasture location is a good first step. Measuring the length of the fence will help you purchase the appropriate amount of supplies, including posts and fencing materials. This is also the perfect time to choose the location of the fence gate(s).

Step 2

Once you’ve designed the layout of the pasture, installing the posts comes next. For high-tensile and electric wire fences, be sure to give the corner posts extra attention because they’ll be bearing the weight of the tightened wires. Posts can be dug with hand tools, though a post hole-drilling machine can greatly speed up the process.

Step 3

After the posts are in the ground and you have finished installing the actual fence (whether board, electric, mesh wire, or otherwise), your pasture should be good to go! With any new fence, take the time to carefully introduce your horses to the new pasture; it’s a good idea to walk them around the perimeter and introduce them to the boundaries.

Building a horse fence requires time and effort, but by researching your options and making informed decisions, you’ll be well on your way to building a fence that is perfect for your farm horses.


Next Up