Discover the best kinds of fencing for horses. Whether you are creating a new turnout area or replacing old fencing, learn the pros and cons as well as the costs that come with each type.
The best fencing for your horse is going to be tall enough that the horse is discouraged from jumping out, visible enough that the horse can easily see it, have horse safety standards met and a fence the horse will respect.
You want to be careful about the fencing you choose not only to save money in your wallet but also for your horse’s safety. I have dealt with several different kinds of fencing situations and done a lot of research over the years about which are the better choices for horses.
Horse Fencing To Avoid
Many fences that are usually used for most livestock are not safe for horses and must not be used for horse fencing.
These horses are standing next to a dangerous fence made of loose barbed wire and page wire. Make sure to replace any fencing not safe for horses with suitable fencing. Horses are injured by fencing more than any other type of livestock.
|Fencing To Avoid||Why You Should Avoid It|
|Barbed Wire||Barbed wire is often used around large pastures to keep cattle. It has low visibility and is able to cut and tear into the horse’s flesh. If a horse runs into this kind of fencing then there will potentially be big problems, possibly bad enough to be put down. Even if the horse rubs or kicks the fence they may end up with wounds.|
|High Tensile Steel Wire||High tensile wire is similar to barbed wire but without the barbs. Like barbed wire it is not very visible. If the horse gets caught in this kind of fence it can cut right through the horse’s skin and cause major injuries.|
|Page Wire Fencing||Page wire fencing is more visible than barbed wire and high tensile wire but the holes are a hazard. They are usually big enough that the horse can get a hoof through and caught, which can cause the horse to panic and get injured.|
|Stockade Panels||Stockade panels are welded metal. If the horse crashes into or kicks the fence it can cause the welded metal to break which creates sharp protrusions from the fence. The horse can get bad cuts from this. Another thing to consider is that these fences have no give in the horse were to hit, kick or bang into one.|
This horse is leaning over barbed wire to get to the grass on the other side. This horse can get seriously hurt from this kind of fencing.
Some people believe that if horses have enough space to run around and be horses then they will be content and stay away from fencing. This means that it’s okay if the fencing is not the best and maybe a little unsafe right? No! Horses are more prone to getting injured than any other animal due to their strong sense to run away from danger.
A panicking horse or a horse being run around by a pasture mate may be desperate to flee and run right into a fence especially if it is not highly visible. Not only that but horses do tend to get the grass on the other side of the fence. Maybe because it is free of urine and manure?
Types Of Fencing Good For Horses
When considering good fencing, the posts play a major part in the integrity of the fence. It is important to make sure that the posts are properly installed.
|Type Of Fencing/Post||Post Tips|
|Wire Fences||These types of fences need tension, so it is important that corners and gates are braced against this tension. Metal t-posts or wood posts are suitable.|
|Wood Fence Posts||It is advisable to use concrete with wood posts in the corners and gate posts, especially with wire fencing.|
|Metal T- Posts||Metal t-posts are most secure and sturdy when the corners and gate posts are wood. These can be dangerous in the sense that the horse can be impaled. Invest in mushroom caps or better yet caps that allow installing electric ribbons to discourage reaching over the fence and damaging it as well as adding an extra level of respect.|
Wood Horse Fencing
This is the most traditional kind of horse fencing out there and I see them at many barns. There are some different styles you can try with wood fencing which give the rustic charm look. They are highly visible and are pretty strong.
Wood fencing has an expensive upfront cost and can also be high maintenance. It breaks down over time from weather, rot, and splintering from horses kicking, and chewing, and then needs to be replaced when this happens. Horses chewing is a common occurrence with wood fencing especially from cribbers.
Wooden fences are rigid and don’t have a lot of give. Horses can run through this kind of fence and when they do the wood splinters into sharp points which can cause major injuries.
To help make the horse respect the fence more and provide an extra safety measure you can put a strand of electricity on the inside of one of the fence boards or over the top of the fence.
PVC & Vinyl Horse Fencing
This PVC fencing is dirty and could use a washing down.
PVC is a type of vinyl fencing. In the fencing world, these terms are often used interchangeably. PVC fencing looks like wood fencing that has been painted. It is usually available in several colors with white being the most common.
It is more expensive than wood fencing but the maintenance is much lower for PVC fencing compared to wood. When these fences become dirty they can be hosed or wiped down with water.
Along with the traditional horizontal boards, you can get PVC fencing with the two middle boards in an x form crossing over each other. This is called a cross-buck configuration.
Though this fence is highly visible these fence boards are more designed for aesthetics and are fragile.
Although PVC is generally tough and lasts a very long time before it needs replacing, if the horse kicks the fence really hard or runs into the fence the PVC boards will break. These fences also become more fragile in the extreme cold which makes them more prone to breaking during those times. These fences can be dangerous when they break because they create sharp shards that the horse can get cut or impaled.
Like wood fencing, it is recommended with PVC that you use a strand or two of electric tape to keep the horses away from this fencing.
Metal Pipe Horse Fencing
Metal pipe fencing is often used for round pens but can be used for paddocks and pastures. These are especially strong fencing, which is why they are often used for wild mustangs. They have good visibility.
They are expensive but the maintenance is very low. They don’t often break. However, if the horse kicks the fence it may bend or get dents.
Often metal gates are used with all different kinds of fencing similar to metal pipe fencing. One downside of this fencing is in extreme weather the metal can either become freezing cold or scorching hot.
Polymer Horse “Flex Fencing”
Polymer fencing is available in a coated line that can be electric or not as well as a rail like in the photo above.
With polymer fencing several lines or rails run across from post to post. This kind of fencing is flexible, it will give a certain amount when pressed and return to the original position when the pressure is released.
The fencing is basically high tensile wire coated in flexible plastic polymer. The upfront costs are not cheap but the maintenance costs are low. Maintaining the fence mainly consists of making sure the strips have tension and cleaning the fence so that it looks nice by hosing or wiping it down.
This is safer than wire fencing because it is coated and flexes to pressure, whereas wire fencing is not very flexible and is said to have cheese-cutter effects.
The thick bands of this type of fencing are able to handle several thousand pounds of weight if the horse were to run into the fence or fall on it. If the horse does run into the fence instead of breaking the fence or getting hurt they bounce off the fence. If they get their leg caught you don’t have to worry about them cutting their leg or getting seriously hurt like other types of fencing.
Some say that an extra layer of protection is best by combining it with another type of fencing, maybe to make it more visible and provide a stronger barrier.
It may be beneficial to use a strand electric braid or tape if the horses are leaning against the fence to get grass on the other side. Seeing as these stripes are more flexible, if the horse is really smart they may figure out a way to squeeze through the fence to get to the other side. Just saying I have seen that happen before, a cheeky young quarter horse mare who was ravenous for the greener grass on the other side of the fence.
Electric Horse Fencing
This is electric fencing that uses thicker electric tape that is more visible and then electric wire for more zap to keep the horses respecting the fence.
Electric fencing deters horses from trying to get out and encourages them to stay away from the fence. It is a physical barrier that can have low or high visibility depending on the kind of electric fencing used. It is also a mental barrier.
If the horse gets a shock by the fence they may try again but after that, they will think twice to try getting near the fence again. They respect what the fence is. Although sometimes there are horses that are thicker skinned which I have seen bull right on through electric fencing to get to grass on the other side. So some horses may need something more solid than just strands of electric fencing or a higher voltage of electricity.
Cow fencing that uses electric fencing is typically set at a much higher voltage. I leaned against electric cow fencing and dropped to the ground. Whereas horse fencing I have been shocked by was more of an “OUCH!” but much more bearable.
Here is another example of electric tape fencing but without electric wire added.
Electric fencing can be standalone but it is also often used in conjunction with other horse fencing. Other than wire fencing electric fencing is one of the cheapest options. If you do use stand-alone electric fencing you want to use thick electric fencing tape to make the fence more highly visible.
This can be used in combination with a strand of electric wire fencing if you need a bit more of a jolt, for example, if the horse needs more of a reason to stay away from the fence because they don’t respect it well enough.
In order for the electric fence to be effective and safe it must be properly installed. If there is any obstruction along the current then the fence will not be fully operational and if the horse figures that out they have more potential of escaping and getting loose.
If you are worried whether electric fencing is stressful to horses, you’ll be relieved to know a study was done by Applied Animal Behavior Science. This study discovered paddocks with electric fencing do not increase horses’ stress levels.
Horse Wire Mesh Fencing
Looking at this wire mesh you can see that it is narrow enough that the horses won’t get a hoof through the spaces which is a good thing.
There are two kinds of wire mesh that are suitable for horses. Both have small enough spaces that the horse can’t get their leg through and get caught. One type is like the photo above and the other type is the v-shaped meshed also known as no-climb.
It is said that the V-mesh is the best kind of metal wire fencing for horses. It is also the most expensive metal wire fencing.
Both types of wire mesh fencing are difficult to see, so it is best to have a top rail of a different kind of fencing such as a wood board across the top. This just helps the horse be more aware of the fence and be able to see the fencing.
This kind of fencing is tension-based fencing and maintenance requires regular tightening of the fence, especially if horses are leaning against the fence or rubbing on the fence. Once again another fence that can benefit from a strand of electric braiding or tape.
Another benefit of V-mesh fencing is that it keeps out varmints, such as opossums which can be carriers of the protozoan that causes EPM in horses.
How Tall Should Fencing Be For Horses
|Type Of Fencing||Minimum Fence Height|
|Perimeter Fencing For Property||5 Foot|
|Dividing Fencing Separating Pastures||4.5 Foot|
|Stall Run Out Fencing||6 Foot|
|Paddock Fencing||6 Foot|
|Fencing For Small Equines||In general, the top board of the fence should be about the horses’ or ponies’ eye level when their head is resting naturally.|
|Fencing For Tall Equines & Prone To Jumping||6 Foot|
Other Safety Points For Horse Fencing
Gates must be secure and strong because horses break through weak gates. The horse may want to come in because it is hot outside, it’s buggy, they want grass on the other side of the fence, dinner time or they want to be with another horse outside of the paddock.
Gates should be chained or latched up securely where the horse can’t fiddle the gate open. Some horses may require more than one latch and clip in case one broke, there’s a backup.
Often metal or wooden gates are used. You can use electric gate fencing which has plastic handles that have a metal hook, hook onto a loop of electric tape, or rope.
This is not the most secure option but it is a cheaper option. It is safer to go with a solid gate and have the electric rope or tape go across the gate and attach to the rest of the electric circuit with the plastic electric gate handle.
Visibility Of The Fence
Visibility is very important for the horse’s safety. White planks of PVC and wood fencing are highly visible, however polymer fencing, some electric fencing, and especially wire fencing are not so noticeable. With electric fencing alone you want to make sure you have some visible thick tape even if it is in combination with the braided electric rope, then the horse will at least be able to see it.
With wire mesh fencing a top rail called a sight rail is needed. This can be a wood board, PVC rail, nylon webbing or something that is thick enough to be seen by the horse.
Strength Of The Fence
You want a strong fence that can’t be easily broken. However, if a horse is running at a fence full speed they are probably going to go over, through, or badly hurt. This can be prevented if the reason is that the horse can’t see the fence well.
The strength is especially important in areas close to the gate where the horse comes in and out, areas close to other horses, near the water and feeding areas.
Where possible the inside of the fencing should be smooth with no protrusions. Some fencing being smooth along the inside is not always possible but this will prevent fewer cuts, bruising, and injuries.
Avoiding Injuries By Prevention
Corners of pastures and paddocks are places where horses can get hurt. If a horse chases another horse into a corner they can become entrapped and beaten up. To prevent this the corners can be rounded off by adding planks across the corner to block off the area.
Check paddocks regularly for broken boards, nails sticking out, uneven joints, and broken wires, as a horse walking along the edge of the fence can end up getting hurt.
One problem some people building their own fencing sometimes discover is that putting planks on the outside of the fence posts can cause them to be kicked down easier as well as the fact the horses can bang into the fence posts that are exposed in the turnout area.
For fencing that has some protrusions on the inside as part of the fence, they may benefit from an electric strand to keep the horse further away from the fence so they are less likely to get an injury.
Make sure there is no area on the fence where the horse can get their leg caught or stuck. When a horse gets stuck they panic because they tend to be claustrophobic and then can get really bad injuries.
The fence openings should either be very small to prevent a hoof front from going through and getting stuck or big enough that the horse’s leg, hoof, or head won’t get stuck. The bottom gap of the fence should be 8-12 inches which will keep hooves from getting caught on the bottom. Even a foal shouldn’t be able to roll out of a paddock.
Stallions are very eager to be around mares and are also aggressive toward other stallions and geldings. Some will jump paddocks, rough on fencing, or try to cause trouble over the fence. Make sure that the paddock is tall enough and you also want to have double fencing between paddocks to discourage any fighting or aggressive behavior between horses.
It is important for the safety of the horse that the fence be properly installed and maintained. If you end up installing the fence yourself and end up struggling to maintain the fence it will end up costing you more money in the long run.
Think about whether you or someone you know has the skills to properly install the fence or if you need to hire someone who does.
One way to make the fence stronger is through more stable posts, driving round wooden posts directly into the ground with a machine a contractor would have. This compacts the soil around the posts securely compared to digging, placing the posts in, and backfilling the area. This would cost more money to have professional help but save you from loose posts in the near future.
Of course, it is nice to have a fence that compliments the farm, looks attractive, and professional, and that you can be happy with when you look out on the farm. However, your budget is a big factor in how fancy you can go. The most important thing is how functional and safe the fence is.
How Much Fencing Is Needed
This chart is just an approximation to help you figure out costs.
|ACRES Of Land Being Fenced||1 board/ rail/ strand, wire mesh/ etc.||2 board/ rail/ strand/ etc.||3 board/ rail/ strand/ etc.||4 board/ rail/ strand/ etc.||5 board/ rail/ strand/ etc.|
How Much Does Horse Fencing Cost
Fencing prices come in a wide array. However, when you are installing a new fence or replacing one there are going to be other costs besides the fence barrier. There will be upfront costs and long-term maintenance costs.
Some upfront costs for installing a fence include equipment to install the fence such as augers and post drivers, fence materials, paint and contractors. You need to factor these costs into your budget.
As far as maintenance keep in mind some fences may be cheaper to install but have higher maintenance costs and vice versa, some fences may be more expensive to install but have lower maintenance costs. This is another thing to take into consideration.
Figure out what your budget for this project is, that way you can figure out what kind of fencing you can afford.
Horse Fencing Prices By Foot (Posts, other materials and labor not included)
|Type Of Fencing||Price Per Foot|
|Wood Board Fencing||$3-9|
|PVC (Vinyl) Fencing||$8-$20|
|Metal Pipe Fencing||$7-10|
|Polymer Fencing Rail||$0.80-$0.90|
|Polymer Fencing Strand Non-Electric||$0.11-$0.13 per line*|
|Polymer Electric Tape||$0.10-$0.28 per line*|
|Electric Braid Fencing||$0.10 to $0.14 per braid|
|Wire Mesh Fencing||$1.50 to $5 per linear foot|
|Wire V-Mesh Fencing||$1.40-$5 per linear foot|
Comparison Chart Of Different Horse Fencing (Maintenance, Visibility, Cost)
|Type Of Fencing||Visibility||Maintenance||Cost|
|PVC or Vinyl||High||Mid||High|
Need fence-building items? Here are some of our picks.
(If you make a purchase using the links included, I may earn a commission for my blog. For more information click here.)
Electric Braid Fencing (tractorsupply.com)
Wire No-Climb Fencing (tractorsupply.com)
Polymer Fencing CenFlex Rails (tractorsupply.com)
CenFlex Fence Line Post Brackets (tractorsupply.com)
Safe-Fence Vinyl Sleeve For T-Posts (horse.com)
Polytape Electric Tape Fencing (horse.com)
T-Post Insulated Caps (horse.com)
Safe-Fence Wood Post Polytape Insulator (horse.com)
Safe-Fence T-Post Polytape Insulator (horse.com)
Polytape Gate Handle (horse.com)
Electric Fence Solar Charger (horse.com)
Final Fencing Thoughts
The fencing you are investing in should be as safe as possible for your horses within your budget. But you also want it to look as good as possible, because not only do you want to be happy with how the fencing looks, it is an investment into your property and future buyers if you ever decided to sell the place.
No matter the style of fencing you go with, the most important thing is that the fence is sturdy, highly visible and as safe as possible.