Fencing for Horses
Appropriate and well-maintained fencing is important for enclosing a field or paddock. These fences can be made from different materials such as wood, wire heavy mesh, metal or PVC pipes. If electric fencing is used, wide ribbons should be used to make the fence visible. Many horses will avoid electric fences, but it is never a good option as a primary fence. A frightened or determined horse can easily go through electric fencing. Horses also seem to be able to sense when the power is off!
Fences should be selected and installed with a number of factors in mind:
- Fencing should allow easy access to pastures and not limit the performance of stable chores or pasture maintenance.
- Gates should be easy to operate with only one hand so the other hand is free and allows ease of entry and exit with horses.
- Fencing supplies for repairs should be readily available.
- Fencing should be strong, durable, and free from risks that could injure horses.
- Fencing should also allow easy movement of groups of horses from pasture to shelter.
- Avoid using barbed wire, page wire, or narrow gauge high-tensile steel wire fencing for small or closely confined areas, as this is a risk to horse safety.
- All-weather lanes should connect turnout areas to the stable. Lanes can be grassed or gravelled depending on the type and amount of traffic that use them.
- Lanes should be wide enough to allow the passage of mowing equipment and vehicles.
- Vehicles such as cars, light trucks and tractors, can be up to 2.5 metres wide.
- Farm equipment needs 3.5-metre to 5-metre-wide lanes to comfortably negotiate. Narrower lane widths are acceptable for smaller tractors or mowing equipment.
- Room should be left for snow storage or removal along the sides of lanes and roads.
Information adapted with permission from "Fence Planning for Horses", Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Research and Cooperative Extension.
What does the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines say about fences and gates?
“Several types of fencing materials are suitable for horses, including wood, metal pipe, mesh and electric. Page wire, barbed wire and narrow gauge, high tensile steel wire are used in extensive grazing settings but should be avoided in closely-confined paddocks. These types of fencing can cause severe injury to horses, especially if in poor repair.
Unless horses are effectively contained through strong, well-maintained fencing and gates they may leave the property, which brings a significant risk of injury to that horse (e.g., road accidents) and the safety of other horses and humans. The strength and height of fencing are particularly important for stallion enclosures.”
The following requirements are identified in the Code of Practice:
Fences must be constructed and maintained to minimize the risk of injury and must be strong enough to contain horses. Refer to municipal fencing by-laws, if applicable.
Electric fences must be installed according to the manufacturer’s specifications. All power units for electric fences must be designed to prevent short circuits and/or stray voltage.
Temporary electric fences used for strip grazing or pasture rotation are not acceptable permanent perimeter fences for horses.
These recommended practices are also provided in the Code of Practice:
- Introduce horses to unfamiliar fenced areas during daylight hours to reduce the risk of injury.
- Mark smooth wire and other hard-to-see fencing in such a way that it is more visible to horses (e.g., tie flags to the fencing).
- Supervise horses when they are first introduced to electric fencing (and avoid mixing new horses at the same time as the group is first introduced to electric fencing).
- Ensure gates used by horses are at least 1.22 m (4 ft) wide.
Excerpts from the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines (2013) have been used with permission, Equine Canada and the National Farm Animal Care Council. The process for the development of Codes can be accessed through the National Farm Animal Care Council.