Fence Safety

Horses don’t usually live behind fences because they are inherently dangerous for the horse; the young horse learns quickly to respect them while being born and raised behind one.  Yet injury from fencing occurs every day.

There are many fencing styles, and usually, the cost of the fence is proportional to the safety it brings to the farm.  But that’s not always the case.  Fencing that is not maintained often becomes the reason for injury.

A buffer is beneficial where two paddocks containing horses have a shared fence line.  Having only one fence line shared between two aggressive horses damages the fence and the horses.  I will never forget the mare kicking at the neighbor that was too close to her foal.  Separated only by a shared fence, the mare did not pay attention and killed her foal with a kick to its head.  A 10 to 12-foot (3 to 3.5m) buffer will avoid this.

Steel posts with exposed metal tops have skewered horses who are rearing at another horse across a shared fence line.  There are rounded plastic toppers made to prevent this.

A wire is afraid of the thick hide of cattle, but a wire easily cuts against the thin skin of horses. Barbed wire is the worst with the knife edges but is no safer than smooth wire. I have seen a horse lift a front leg over a smooth wire and get it stuck behind the pastern above the bulbs of the heel.  The horse then sawed the wire through the joints of the pastern.

Another rule of fencing is to make it visible.  Thin wires are often made visible with ties of fabric along the fence fluttering in the breeze.  However, these devices are hard to see at night and are often not seen with a horse running from something he is scared from (running blind).

There are stories of injuries for every style of fence, but the safest seems to be the woven wire (diamond mesh) and the high-tension wire encased in vinyl or plastic.  Both prevent penetration but rather bounce the horse off.  It is worth the added expense to do the best you can when building a fence and then maintaining it.  Double fencing gapping two adjacent paddocks doubles the cost, but it can save a veterinary expense or your horse’s life.

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