CHOOSE THE RIGHT FENCE
Whether you’re putting in a new fence or renovating an old one, you’ll find many options available. Here are some tips for establishing your priorities and setting your budget. By Heather Smith Thomas
hat type of fencing is best for horses?
Pose that question to owners in different parts of the country, and you’re likely to get a variety of answers---some delivered quite vehemently. “People often become emotional about fences,” says Marti Day, of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension at North Carolina State University. “Some think wire fence is evil and that you must have board fence for horses.” Others might insist just as firmly that wire is the only viable option for their own properties. But the correct answer, really, is, “It depends.” “There are many good fences, and different situations can make them good or bad,” says Day. “You can’t make a blanket statement as to what is a good fence and have it cover all the possibilities.” What’s “best” for one herd on one farm may not work at all for someone else in a different situation. On smaller farms surrounded by busy roads or development, just keeping the horses in might be the highest concern. Whereas on larger ranches that need miles of fencing in remote areas, cost, maintenance and longevity might be more important.
Whatever the circumstances, fencing has one basic job: “A fence should be able to keep the horses on your side of the property line,” says Bob Coleman, PhD, state extension specialist at the University of Kentucky. “Also, you might want to restrict access to your horses, by keeping out neighborhood dogs, predators or small children.”
To accomplish that goal safely, good fencing needs to present both a physical barrier---which is strong enough to contain a horse who runs into it or who applies pressure by leaning or reaching through it---and a psychological barrier, so the horses can see it, always know it’s there and not continually test its limits. But good fencing must also strike a balance---if it’s too “strong” it may entrap or injure horses. Too weak, and it may allow horses to escape.
Whether you’re renovating an existing farm or building from scratch, you’ll first want to consider several factors to help you decide which type of fencing is best for you. Then, you’ll be prepared to analyze the many choices of material and make the best decision for your property. We’ll help you get started.