Safe Horse Fence, Safe, Secure … Synthetic!
Don't let your horses get tangled in a fencing disaster! When safety and security are
priorities, your best solution might just be a synthetic fencing material.
As I turned into the driveway to my friend's barn one winter afternoon, our veterinarian's truck
was just pulling out. I waved to her in passing, but I was thinking, "uh-oh". Sure enough, when I
peeked into the barn, there stood her most recent patient, bandaged from hoof to hock. Earlier
that morning (as his owner Sandra told the tale), the gelding had had a tangle with her brand-new
wire fence, slicing his leg almost to the bone. Now his leg was a maze of stitches, edema was
swelling it to tree-trunk proportions, and he was looking at a six-month recuperation period. Needless to say, the fence was also a twisted mess.
Sandra had installed her fencing in good faith, in the belief that it was safe for horses, yet in only
weeks, one of her animals had been seriously injured. But would another kind of barrier have been any less dangerous?
It seems everyone's got a fencing horror story to tell, and with all the different types of fence now
available, sorting out the options can be a daunting task. Here are some things to consider when you're trying to make the safest and most secure choice.
WHAT MAKES A FENCE SAFE?
The act of fencing in horses is contrary to their very nature. As free-ranging herbivores, horses
have an instinctive phobia about being confined, and several thousand years of domestication has
not convinced them that cougars do not lurk behind every rock. When in a panic, horses may run
right through a fence ... and only a barrier that *looks* substantial is likely to deter that instinct.
Visibility, then, is the first factor in making a fence safe. When we consider visibility, we have to
understand how a fence is perceived by a horse. Color is not a key factor in visibility from their
point of view, but brightness and contrast are. Light-colored rails provide brilliant contrast against
green pasture, but disappear against the snow ... and dark rails might become invisible in late afternoon shadows, especially against a background of shade trees. Think about what will work
best for your property.
Many types of wire fencing (including electric fence) are difficult for a horse to see under any
conditions, unless they are dressed up with a solid top rail or ‘flagged’ with strips of plastic or cloth that flutter in the wind.
Social pressures are usually to blame when horses challenge fences. Whether one horse is trying
to escape another, or get to another ... either way, if the need is great enough, the matter of a
fence may be suddenly inconsequential. If your set-up includes shared fence lines, your horses'
safety will depend on smart turn-out strategies. A peaceful, established herd, where each horse
knows his place in the pecking order, will rarely challenge a fence; but add a new horse to that mix, and all hell may break loose.
Separate across-the-fence suitors or aggressors by at least one paddock, both to reduce the wear
-and-tear on your fence, and to lessen the chance of injury. You may also find that things are more peaceful when you separate the mares and the geldings.
Even when the herd is well-behaved, your fencing is still going to take some abuse. What will happen when horseflesh meets that barrier?
Some materials, like metal pipe, can cause significant bruising injuries. Others, like page wire, can
twist, stretch, and shred flesh. Wood can splinter and leave jagged edges. So can hollow plastic
rails, which sometimes become brittle after a few years of exposure to U/V light. Some of the
best fencing choices are those which provide some ‘give’, like the synthetic fences made from high
-tensile wire safely coated in PVC to create the look of planks, or tight wire diamond mesh. But they tend to be very expensive and require expert installation.
Regardless of the material used for the fence, be sure to fasten the horizontal fencing onto the
insides of the posts (that is, closest to the center of the paddock, rather than closest to the outside)
. That way, when horses make contact, the fencing will be pushed against the posts rather than off them.
Fencing is an investment and longevity is an important consideration. Think about whether the
material you choose will be vulnerable to rot, to termites (of the insect or equine variety!), to expansion and contraction with the weather. Fences made with high-tensile wire put serious
pressure on posts (which usually have to be sunk into cement) and need to be re-tightened
periodically. Some materials may not stand the test of severe weather – especially electric tape fencing and some synthetics.
Then there’s ease of installation and maintenance. Can you install the fence yourself, or will you
need to call in the experts? Will you need a blowtorch, or just a hammer and some nails? Can
you easily replace a broken section to make your fence line secure again after your horses have
done their inevitable damage? Does it need to be painted to protect it from rot or rust? Will your
horses chew it to pieces – and are there any toxicity issues if they do? (Pressure-treated and creosoted lumber, for example, can be poisonous if horses ingest enough.)
There are no magical, guaranteed-misery-free fences out there, but some choices ARE better than
others. Since horses are endlessly inventive when it comes to finding trouble, it's a good idea to
prepare for both the obvious disasters, and the not-so-obvious. That way, you'll be far more likely to have sound and happy horses in your paddocks.
A NEW OPTION
Discouraged by the fencing choices out there? Here’s a new option to consider: LifeTime
Lumber synthetic wood. It offers the traditional look of wood while eliminating many of its
problems: it won’t warp, twist, expand or contract, it’s impervious to chewing from termites or
horses, it won’t splinter or rot, and it’s non-toxic to horses and to the environment. It’s even fire
-resistant, carrying a Class B fire rating (it will burn in contact with flames but the fire won’t spread down the fence line).
LifeTime Lumber can be handled just like regular wood planks. You can drive a nail or a screw
through the material, or even cut it with a saw. It comes in a range of attractive colors (brown, tan
, light and dark gray, white, and black). And it’s strong and highly visible to horses. If LifeTime
Lumber does break thanks to a high-speed impact, it does so cleanly, leaving no jagged edges….
and the plank can be easily replaced without having to re-do the whole fence line. It’s even covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
Century Products, LLC developed LifeTime Lumber in 2002, based on more than two years of research and development. Its mission was to create an environmentally safe product using
substantial amounts of recycled materials. 65% of the composition of LifeTime Lumber is flyash,
a non-toxic waste product from the coal-burning industry. It is bound together with polyurethane, a versatile plastic used in everything from car bumpers to pillows.
The end result is attractive, practically indestructible, easy to work with, and has the authentic look of wood, including the grain. Safe, secure … and synthetic!
Contact: Contact Century Products LLC
4405 Manchester Avenue Suite 105
Encinitas, California 92024