What are the safest fencing materials?
Wood is the most commonly used fencing material, but is it the
safest? Well, some people think that if it is a natural product,
then it must be okay. This makes some sense, for horses have
existed in the wild forever surrounded by wood, rock, vegetation,
etc. So itís not the material that may be unsafe, but what man
has shaped it into. A sharp wooden corner is still a sharp corner.
Whether you decide on wood, metal, vinyl, hot tape, etc., care
must be taken upon installation to minimize potential hazards to a
horse that may run into it, get caught up in it, or just plain
brush up against it. The one material that, in our opinion, should
never be used is barbed wire. This type of fencing
was designed to contain tough skinned, slow moving cattle. It can
kill a horse that gets tangled up in it. Any fencing material is
potentially hazardous, but as of yet, a proven way of making
barbed wire safe around horses does not exist. With that in mind,
what are the pros and cons of other fencing types? Well, wood is
probably overall the safest, just because it is a natural
material. It has a fair amount of "give" to it when a
horse rubs against it, or even runs into it. Unfortunately, it is
also expensive when done on a large scale and must be properly
treated with a preservative to retard rot.
Metal, as in what they
call "safety horse fencing", comes with 4 or 5 inch open
squares made out of extra heavy gauge wire, resembling giant
chicken wire. This is fine, if only the best grade of material is
used (full wrap around construction, not welded), and it is
properly installed, with a wooden 2 x 6 or similar rail to hold the top
and the same at the bottom to prevent small hoofs from slipping
through the gap. Vinyl is the longest lasting (although it hasnít
been around quite long enough to really prove this), and it never
needs painting. It is also the most expensive, making a large
scale fencing operation a huge financial undertaking. This must be
weighed against the amount of time you are willing to spend
maintaining your fence, though. For many, the cost is justified.
With any fence you choose, it can be made safer and less
maintenance intensive by putting a band of "hot tape"
electric fencing along the top. This keeps the horses from chewing
on or otherwise playing with the fence. Use the best quality tape
or rope you can find, and it will pay for itself many times over,
especially since the cost of doing this will be a tiny fraction of
what the actual fence costs.