Beware: Discussions about the best kind of fencing for your horses are bound to elicit strong opinions and a tangle of conflicting philosophies.

One of the homes on our street has a big roan horse who’s constantly escaping her field. We have a long driveway and a gate that shuts, but we keep it open a lot of the time when we are home. Naturally, Ol’ Roanie finds her way up to our place time and again. This horse has become a bit of a problem because A) she’s a mare, and we have a whole pen full of adolescent stallions just ready for something interesting to stroll by, and B) she’s always getting into our feed and harassing our horses over our boundary fence. Her shenanigans often come back to us too, as we are known on our county road as “The Place with All the Horses,” so it’s assumed by our irritated neighborhood that she’s an escapee from our address. This happens several times a month.

Naturally, the topic of a loose horse gets me to thinking about my own fencing. We are constantly in some state of fencing or re-fencing, as we’re redoing our place ourselves and trying to design it with as much sense, safety, strength and visual appeal as possible. 

horse pasture fencing
The best fencing for horses is a controversial topic.
Photo by Kelli Neubert

And let me just say, having a discussion about the best fence is about as controversial as discussing the best way to handle COVID-19. Anyone with livestock can attest that there’s a balance for each household that is considered cost effective, safe and attractive fencing. 

Now, I’m no fencing expert, but it seems I’m lucky enough that each and every friend of mine is, because they all have opinions on the subject, and strong ones! 

“Top rail and non-climb is the way to go.” 

“Sucker-rod, not cable,” and “Cable, not sucker rod.”

“I like the look of wire and staves myself.”

“Seven-strand smooth wire. Cheap and low maintenance.” 

Sigh. 

We’ve (and please note that “we” means mostly my husband, with me falling into the role of giving my opinion, holding the tape measurer and running the tractor and grinder) decided to use mostly pipe and sucker-rod on our facility, spaced tightly enough that even the trickiest colts can’t rub their manes out, and high enough off the ground that weeds are grubbed down by horses before they grow into the fence. We’ve added creosote boards to some of our runs to help block the winter winds, and anywhere we’ve done smooth wire, we are running cedar staves down the line to strengthen it and keep it, well, classy. 

To paint or not to paint? We are a strictly “not to paint” facility and leave all our pipe fence rusted, but I understand some folks prefer looking at (and maintaining) white, black, green or other colored pipe, and to each his own. 

We are starting to consider perimeter fence, and I keep going back to what I told myself as a kid. When my horse had a tendon sliced by downed barbed wire, I claimed that I wouldn’t build a perimeter fence for my horses that contained the stuff, and now I’m facing that reality. Our big fields are multipurpose, meaning mares, foals, young horses and/or cattle (yes, the Corriente and Brahman kind mostly — which translates to extra trickiness). So, the jury’s still out on what exactly to build. In a perfect world, it would be great to have the option to keep in goats as well, although I feel that after owning a few of them, that’s a paradox. 

Also, as a gal, I never knew that the size of pipe for an entrance was so important. But now that I’ve been married for nine years and am surrounded by like-minded men, I realize that the old cliché rings true: the bigger the better. 

So, of course, we bought 11½-inch pipe for ours. And for those of you who may not be familiar with what that means, think of sticks that are the circumference of a basketball, all the way up and across, to accommodate the biggest Bloomer living quarters with a generator on top. Or a cow truck. 

With all this fencing and planning and decision making, with all the stave tying and wire stretching and tacking and welding and grinding and measuring, with all the big pipe and strong sucker rod and gates in the right places and decisions to make, my biggest hope is that all of my neighbors phone calls from here on exclaim, “Gee, your place looks awesome! And that giant pipe entrance? Great call!” 

And not, “Your roan mare is out again and eating my alfalfa.”

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