When it comes to ensuring your horse is safe and secure in their paddock, a good fence is vital. But what exactly makes a good fence? What kinds of barriers can you choose between? And which one will best suit your circumstances?
We’re going to answer all those questions! And we’ll look at five horse fence options that are often considered, and set out their pros and cons.
So if you’re ready, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What makes a good fence?
Let’s begin by looking at what you want your fence to do.
The primary purpose is simple – you want it to keep your horse on your property. You may also want to keep your horse away from other neighborhood visitors – whether that’s children, dogs or even predators.
Those functions mean your fence has to be strong. And it also has to present a clear barrier, not least to your horse! You don’t want him or her to think it’s worth attempting a breakout.
A good fence also needs to strike a balance between being robust and being safe. Very tough barriers can injure your horse. Whatever you do, don’t use barbed wire around paddocks. Cattle have tough enough hides to cope with it, but horses don’t.
The other attributes you may want in your fence will vary depending on your individual circumstances.
Appearance is often an important factor. While in some locations a visually imposing barrier may be fine, in others you may want something more subtle.
It’s also worth considering the amount of space and quality grazing your horse will have. The more tempting the area beyond the fence, the more that fence needs to present a psychological barrier! That can be particularly important if the paddock is going to be used by several animals.
If your horses are different heights, your fence will need to cater to all of them. That might mean covering gaps between wooden posts with wire mesh if you have miniature horses or ponies. Make sure the holes are too small for their hooves to get stuck.
And the fence will need to finish close enough to the ground to prevent little heads getting stuck underneath!
Finally, think about what you need to keep out, as well as how best to keep your horse in. If you live in an area that has small animals like raccoons or opossums, you may need reinforced fencing.
How big should it be?
In some areas, the size of your fence will be determined by building codes. But if you have more freedom, you’ll need to consider the right size fence for your circumstances.
You want your fence to be high enough to deter your horse from trying to jump over it. And it needs to be low enough to the ground to prevent any ponies or foals from rolling under it. The lowest rail should be around a foot above the ground.
For paddocks, a fence around 4 feet tall is a good bet. Most horses will be fine with fences between the 3 feet 6 inches and 4 feet 6 inches mark. For ponies, the range is between 3 feet 3 inches and 4 feet 3 inches.
If you choose a fence at the lower end of the range, it’s wise to add electric wire at the top. You may also need a double line of fencing.
But note that you may not need very substantial fences everywhere. For barriers dividing up a paddock to rotate grazing areas, for example, something less robust may work fine.
How much will it cost?
Costs can vary a lot, depending on the type of fence you choose. And if you need to enclose a larger area, the total spend can quickly become significant.
One price comparison put electric braid fencing at less than half the price of a no-climb fence. The calculation included costs for both materials and installation.
But in some cases, spending more up-front can minimize the expense of ongoing maintenance. So it’s worth working out the whole-life cost of your fence to get the best value for money.
Remember to take into account the costs of the posts as well as the rails. Generally speaking, you’ll need a post every 5 to 10 feet, with at least two rails between them. (Note, however, that this can vary with some types of fencing. We’ll find out more about that later.)
And don’t forget to consider the conditions your fence will need to withstand. Is the paddock in an area that gets high winds? What about rainfall?
A fence that lasts 20 years in a balmy climate might last half that time in an area with more extreme weather. Picking an option that will stand up to the conditions where you live will save money in the long run.
What are your Horse Fencing options?
You now know what your fence needs to do and how much you want to spend on it. It’s time to take a look at what’s out there to fit the bill.
1. Post and rail wooden fencing
Post and rail wooden fencing is the classic choice for equine facilities. It consists of a series of wooden boards nailed into upright posts, with gaps between them.
Wooden post and rail fencing is very strong, and as long as it’s carefully maintained, it’s safe too.
It’s also visually appealing, with a rustic charm. It provides a clear barrier, while also allowing you (and your horses) to see through to the land beyond. And it will work just as well for a small paddock as a state-of-the-art training facility.
There are, however, some downsides.
First up, it’s more expensive than other options. Softwoods like cedar, cypress and redwood are best at resisting rot and damage from insects. But they are very costly.
Pressure-treated lumber, also known as PTL, is a less pricy alternative. If this is what you choose, make sure you get posts that are certified for installation in the ground. Otherwise the bases will rot away.
But whatever wood you choose, if you have a large area to enclose, the costs may be prohibitive.
Wooden fencing also needs regular inspection and maintenance. Horses will all too often chew rails or use uprights as scratching posts. Weakened or splintered boards need to be replaced promptly, or they risk causing injury.
For the same reason, you’ll also need to check regularly for any nails that have worked loose.
2. Post and wire fencing
To cut down on costs, some people choose to pair wooden posts with various forms of wire fencing. But while it’s certainly less expensive, it can create other problems.
First and most importantly is its visibility for horses. It’s far less obvious than wooden rails, and horses pressing against it can become tangled or receive cuts.
Installing your fence with care can reduce the risk. Keeping fence posts closer together and adding electrical tape or flags will help horses see the barrier more clearly. Another option is to add a wooden or PVC rail or fence ribbon across the top.
And although wire itself is long-lasting, it still requires careful installation and maintenance.
It’s particularly important that the wire remains taut. That means ensuring that corner and gate assemblies are properly braced. If you’re using wooden posts with wire fencing, it’s best to set the corner and gate posts in concrete.
Note that there are a number of different options when it comes to the wire itself. High-tensile wire, smooth wire or V-mesh wire can all be used.
The latter is one of the safest options. It consists of a combination of diagonal and horizontal wires in a “V” pattern. It’s strong enough to handle a horse even at full gallop without breaking. And it’s equally good at keeping out predators.
It’s more expensive than other wire options, however – not very much different in price to wood. Overall costs can be reduced by using it with metal T-posts rather than wooden ones.
3. PVC and plastic fencing
Fencing made from PVC or other types of plastic is often modeled to look like traditional wooden fencing. You can also find wooden fencing with a PVC coating to improve its weather resistance.
You can get this type of fencing in a wide range of colors. It’s less expensive than wooden post and rail fencing. And you can usually find both rails and packs including rails and upright posts, depending on your needs.
You won’t need to worry about repainting a plastic fence. But depending on the climate where you live, it may not be as resilient as you might expect.
Any parts of the fence that don’t get direct sunshine can be vulnerable to mildew, so will need periodic cleaning. And if you live in an area that experiences very cold temperatures, the plastic can become brittle. That leaves it at risk of snapping if a horse leans on it.
More modern PVC generally weathers better. But it’s still a good idea to use it in combination with an electric braid. That will help keep horses away from the fence and avoid it having to withstand too much pressure.
4. Electric braid fencing
Electric fences are designed to stop horses going near the barrier. Once shocked, the animal will quickly learn to stay away.
Electric braid fencing is just what you’d imagine from the name – a braided cord through which an electrical current runs. The braid means it’s much easier for the horse to see than a simple wire, and it’s also more visually appealing.
The braids can be mounted on all kinds of posts, including metal, wood and fiberglass, and they’re available in a range of colors. Choose white to stand out, or green or brown to blend into the landscape.
They’re not expensive, but you do need to ensure they stay taut, which may mean using more posts. They’re often used along the top of other forms of fencing. When calculating costs, remember to take into account the charger and insulators, as well as the electricity required.
A good maintenance regime is very important with this kind of fence. You’ll need to ensure vegetation is cut back underneath the braids. And you’ll want to check the electrical supply is working on a regular basis.
An alternative to electric braids is electric tapes. If you choose these, opt for wider versions to ensure they’re clearly visible.
But note that they’re not as weatherproof as braids. They tend to hold more moisture in wet weather, which can make them sag. And strong winds can damage the small wires inside.
5. Fully electric fence
As we’ve seen, electrical braid is often used along the top of other forms of fencing. But you can also use multiple rows as an inexpensive replacement for boards.
As with other installations, you’ll need to keep each row of braid nice and taut. Setting corner posts and gate assemblies into concrete will help them stay firm and avoid loss of tension.
Horses learn quickly when they get a shock, so this type of fencing is usually very effective at preventing them roaming. But the gaps between braids can allow smaller animals like raccoons to get into the paddock.
And unless you use multiple strands, most braid fences won’t stand up to a collision with a horse.
One thing to note is that, as with barbed wire, what might be suitable for cattle won’t work for horses. Don’t be tempted to use high tensile wire with an electric current. If a horse is spooked and collides with the fence, it can suffer serious injuries.
Ready to install your horse fence?
We hope our guide to horse fence options has helped you identify a solution to meet your needs.
Think about what horses or ponies you need to keep in – and what critters you want to keep out! And consider the weather your fence will need to cope with, and how much maintenance you’re prepared to do.
There are plenty of options out there, for all budgets. And don’t be afraid to choose and combine different solutions for different areas. You won’t need as robust a barrier for an internal divider, for example, as for a perimeter fence.
Whatever option you choose, careful planning will ensure it does its job effectively. Good luck with your next project!