Providing a horse with good fencing is one of the most important responsibilities of being a horse keeper – especially during summer, when horses are eager to be turned out to pasture on a more regular basis, or when a new horse enters the picture.
Your fencing needs to be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that it’s strong enough to keep your horse where they belong. It’s a frightening experience to discover an opening or break in your fence and find that your horse has taken off for parts unknown, especially if you live near a road.
Recently, our neighbor purchased a miniature horse and two goats for his daughter. While their turnout paddock isn’t immediately contiguous to our summer pasture, it is close enough that if our horse happened to go to the fence line on that side of the pasture, she could probably determine that there were new animals nearby and would likely try to make her way over to investigate.
We noticed there were a few broken/rotted fence posts along that section of the pasture and began our repairs there, replacing the posts and tightening up the wire. In places where the posts were still sturdy, the wires were stretched and a few strands were broken (no doubt from the deer that seem to have a year-round resident population that jump over or through the wire, sometimes missing their marks, resulting in stretched or downed wire).
Once we were satisfied that the section nearest the neighbor’s line was in good repair, we began our regular fence check routine. Following are some suggestions for a similar safety inspection you can complete in an orderly manner and, depending on how large your paddock or pasture is, get your fence up-to-date in a relatively short time.
Begin your inspections in one corner of your paddock or pasture and work your way completely around the perimeter of your fence. We usually start at the barn.
If you suspect a problem with your fence, such as a weak spot, loose boards/posts or an area where the fence may be broken, leave your horse inside the barn or in another paddock or pasture while you do your inspection and repairs.
It’s a good idea to use a nail apron or a vest to carry your tools – flagging to mark areas that you’ll need to return to in order to make necessary repairs (or a pencil and paper to record these problem spots), fence nails or staples, a hammer, a wire stretcher and whatever else you use for fence repairs.
As you begin to inspect your boards or wire, walk along the side of the fence where the board or wire is attached (most likely the inside of the fence); this is where you’re apt to notice most problems.
Stop at each fence post and examine it to make sure it is straight and intact. Inspect the post to see if there is any “give” when you wiggle it with your hands and make sure it isn’t rotten or broken and can adequately support your fence, remembering that a 1,000-pound horse will exert much more pressure than your hand.
We had a problem years ago that enabled our horses to walk out of the paddock in early spring (and head for our grassy lawn) that was not caused by a faulty or broken fence but rather the use of a 2×4 to attach the first section of board fence to our barn, which was inadequate. We should have dug in a 6×6 post as we did along the rest of the fence.
With a loose or wobbly post, sometimes all that’s needed is to reseat or pound the post in more, as with time posts can become loosened. You may need additional concrete or other supporting material to ensure a sturdy, tight post.
Check each board for protruding or missing nails and signs of damage or deterioration. With your tools, you can do these spot repairs immediately and save time. Be sure to dispose of all nails in a sturdy pocket or in a covered can so they don’t wind up in the pasture and get stepped on.
If you find any boards that have been chewed or are cracked, warped or broken, you’ll need to replace these right away – using your flagging to mark where to return once your inspection is complete. If your wooden fencing is split-rail, examine where the rails rest on top of the posts for rotting areas that will need replacing.
Loose or sagging wire can be a safety hazard, and will need to be stretched to the proper tension. Broken wire needs replacing and should be flagged; small broken sections of box wire can be repaired. Again, be sure to place all used staples in a safe spot to prevent any from falling where they can be stepped on.
Keep vegetation cleared or trimmed along your fencing, which can help in the long run with the life of your fence, as well as keeping your property looking neat and tidy.
Electric fence should be maintained properly, using a meter to check the voltage on a regular basis to ensure that the charge is adequate to deter horses from leaning against or pushing the wire and trying to go through. (To discourage leaning, rubbing and chewing on a board fence, you can run a line of electric wire or electric tape on the inside of the top board.) Make sure that each wire is placed with the proper tension, according to the manufacturer’s directions, and use the proper wiring, connectors and voltage rods that are recommended, inspecting these regularly to make sure they are functioning correctly.
If any electric fence is down near a water source, turn the power off immediately and repair. If you notice any object that is lying on the fence, such as a tree branch or debris, which can ground out the wire and cause it to lose charge, you’ll need to turn the power off before removing the object.
Lastly, check your gates, looking for sharp edges, protruding nails or latches that don’t work properly. The gate should swing freely and close or lock securely. Many “escapes” occur when a gate is accidentally left open – inviting your horse to walk through on its own.
Other maintenance tips include checking your fencing after a heavy rain or thunderstorm or heavy wind that might bring down trees, branches or power lines. Following heavy rains, walk your fence line to look for puddles or accumulation of water that can rot your wooden posts or rust metal stakes. Drain the puddles and strive to provide good drainage along the entire fence line, which will help lengthen the life and durability of your fence.
Performing regular inspections of your perimeter fencing will enable you to rest assured that your horse is safe and securely fenced in.
by Judy Van Put