How do I evaluate electric fence options for horses?
February 22, 2021 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to install a permanent electric fence to contain horses in a pasture. I realize that it's better to have wood fencing to back up the electric, but electric is what it's going to be for a while. I've been browsing different electric fencing options, and I'm at a loss for how to evaluate them. I need safe, sturdy, and strong--both in terms of ability to carry a meaningful current and to survive New England seasons. But, the different fencing from different companies all look similar to me. Any advice or experience?
posted by Alex Haist to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd go on two things: first, word-of-mouth - what are neighbors and others locally using? What are the vets seeing when they're out and about? Second - what do the local co-ops or feed/seeds usually stock/sell?

My only qualification on this is buying and installing electric fencing for poultry, but I went on what others are using in the area and it's performed great for what I needed.
posted by jquinby at 7:23 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]

I agree. Find a local barn or three that use electric fence and ask them how they feel about it. Never met a horse person who didn't want to talk about their gear.
posted by nosila at 8:12 AM on February 22 [2 favorites]

If you are willing to do Facebook, local or state FB equine groups are probably the easiest way to get real-world opinions about options and specific installers if you're hiring that out. (and, not the question you asked, but it's also the easiest way to get recommendations on any other farm services you might need)
posted by drlith at 8:21 AM on February 22

Best answer: Don't use solely high tensile wire. An equine veterinarian friend had to deal with multiple horses injured after getting spooked (!plastic bag!) and getting hung up in the wire. (sawing type cuts). Also don't use "t-bar" type metal stakes to avoid impaling. It's better to chase them down than have grave injury most likely. I have successfully used the fence tape that has a microfilament wire for years to enclose the beasts.

It works in freezing weather (ice coating) and after an initial introductory period, the beasts respect it even if it goes off from a tree fall or such. Horses are creatures of habit and sort-of learn their boundaries as long as their needs are met within their enclosure.

If you're keeping in cows, then such benign metods are not applicable.

When installing it, put a few twists into it so it's not perfect so you avoid the wind creating a resonance wave (fluttering.)
posted by mightshould at 10:15 AM on February 22 [3 favorites]

We use Gallagher fencing for our sheep, but I have no experience with horses. In the winter we keep our sheep in the paddock and turn off the pasture fencing once the wires are partially (or wholly) covered by snow. The paddock has a single wire above the welded wire fence to keep predators out.

I agree that you should check with other area horse owners for best practices. Good luck.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 11:06 AM on February 22

Try searching or asking at the Chronicle of the Horse forums.
posted by sepviva at 11:52 AM on February 22

Best answer: There are many different options and also several philosophies when it comes to horse fencing. First you have to decide what is most important, that the horses cannot get out or that they will not injure themselves on the fence.

To avoid injury on the fence you want something that breaks easily but has low resistance/high voltage. The best for this is aluminium wire. It is easy to work with and mend but can be hard to see so you might want to add something more visible on top. Putting something sturdier on top vill minimise the risk of the horses cutting up their legs. If you want the horses to get a chock during winter snow you will have to connect the lower wire to minus so that they get it if they touch both wires.

To avoid the horses getting out you want something sturdier. Many people in the northern part of Europe use bands with both plus and minus current in the same band to make sure that the horse always get a chock. I have not tried those myself but a lot of people recommend them.
posted by furisto at 7:21 AM on February 23

Response by poster: I have asked the locals, and become friendlier with my neighbors, hooray! However, they are on opposite ends of the spectrum: one advocates for tape and solar charger because tape is safer and because if the electric fence gets zapped by lightning, the barn won't catch fire. She also uses capped metal posts, having seen horses manage to impale themselves on 4x4 fence posts anyway. She said 4x4 pressure treated fence posts shrunk and rotted on account of the continual freeze-thaw cycle we have around here.

Other neighbors advocate wire and connection to the house electricity for better zapping power. They also have used 4x4 pressure treated fence posts without any trouble, allegedly!

At least it was all civil discussion and did not result in the latest drama on the town Facebook page.
posted by Alex Haist at 5:44 AM on March 2

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