No type of fencing for horses is totally safe or foolproof, but some fences are better than others.
The most traditional fencing is wooden rails—either log or planks. Cedar logs are often used, as are two-by-ten-inch planks held with posts that are a minimum of four inches in diameter. Injuries to horses can occur when logs or rails splinter if broken. Some horses like to chew wood and can damage wood fencing. Wood fencing needs frequent maintenance to keep it in repair and to prolong its life.
There are many types of vinyl and plastic fencing available that are designed specifically for horses. Plastic rails imitate the look of wood with no need for paint. Other types of plastic fencing are a combination of synthetic material reinforced with wire. These fences are attractive and relatively safe, although it is possible for a horse to become entangled and cut by the wire.
Electric fencing provides a psychological barrier, and animals are not contained by the strength of the fence, but by the fear of the painful yet harmless shock. It is not a good choice for small areas; but may provide affordable, adequate containment around large pastures where traditional fencing can’t be erected, or where temporary fencing is needed. Many options exist, including polyester braid, nylon webbing, plastic or metal poles, and battery, solar, or electric-powered. Electric fencing is not allowed in some areas, so check with your municipality before putting up an electric fence. Some horses learn to run through the wire, and injury can occur if a horse becomes entangled.
Electric fencing may not be suitable in areas where it is very windy or snowy, as the wind and icy conditions can make the wire sag. Heavily treed areas may not be suitable either since branches can short out the electrical charge. This type of fencing needs checking regularly to be sure that it is working properly. The electric wire is often used in conjunction with other types of fencing to keep horses from approaching the fence line.
Unless it is specifically designed for horses, wire fencing is a poor choice. Some mesh fences are now designed to safely keep horses in while keeping unwanted pests such as disease-carrying opossums out. The size of the spaces between the wire is small enough to prevent a horse from kicking a foot through, or sticking its head between and becoming entangled.
Page wire with eight- or ten-inch openings, or high-tensile wire, whether electrified or not, is a dangerous choice for horse fencing. A horse or pony can easily become entangled and seriously cut by the wire, sometimes fatally. Many people use this as perimeter fencing, where horses are unlikely to come in contact with it. For smaller paddocks, page or square wire fencing presents too much of a hazard.
Pipe fencing is popular in some areas where pipe is easily accessible and inexpensive. A pipe fence is low maintenance and sturdy. Sharp edges and un-yielding strength are the two main hazards of pipe fencing. Pipe fencing may not stand up to very wet, marshy conditions.
When deciding what type of fencing to build, you'll need to consider the terrain, your horse's needs, and your budget.