Electrical Fencing for Horses
At Simply Horses one of our daily problems is what to do with overweight horses, this is a major challenge to all vets and their clients, as the solutions can be complex. However one effective management option, is some form of restricted grazing using electric fences and Olivia Henderson has kindly offered to give us an overview of this subject, for the benefit of our clients.
Electric fencing was once painful, unsafe, expensive, unreliable and difficult to maintain, but now the opposite is true. This has means that the benefits are unrivalled compared to other fencing solutions when it comes to looking after horses.
Electrical fences provide an effective psychological and physical barrier. As a domesticable animal, horses are not likely to leave familiar surroundings if they’re properly cared for. The current running through an electric fence is not enough to hurt but instead gives a small shock which is simply enough to train them to avoid the fence in future.
There are several different types of electrical fencing: permanent; semi-permanent and temporary, and there are many different components and ways to construct a fence. Electric wiring can be used to replace other fencing or can be used in conjunction with wooden and or traditional fencing in order to protect horses and the fence from damage.
It’s easy to install; it can be done by one person, with minimal tools, saving on time and labour, and although believed to be more expensive due to power use, overall electrical fencing is more cost effective than other fencing options such as wood, rail, stock wire or barbed wire. As many horses rub against wooden fence posts, they can easily become breached or sag and frequently need repairs that are costly in both time and money. Wires which are barbed are also easily damaged and pose a large risk to the horses – they can easily hurt themselves and become tangled.
Temporary fencing is very popular due to it’s flexibility; it can be used standalone or be added to permanent electric fencing to create temporary paddock areas, for example if an isolation area is needed in case of illness or aggression, or for strip grazing.
Horses typically gain weight in the spring and summer months when they are kept outside and the grass is plentiful and fast growing. It’s advisable to monitor your horses weight frequently; many companies offer weight tracking charts which are helpful as small changes might not be noticeable if you see your horse most days.
Strip grazing – sectioning off a small area of the paddock so that the horses only have access to a limited amount of grass – is used to restrict the amount of food that horses have access to. This can be very effective for weight control, as many horses dislike being muzzled, and is also used to prevent laminitis; it is thought that too much rich grass in the diet – grass containing a high level of sugars – can contribute to the condition. This can be avoided by moving horses to a new strip in the evening when the sugars are at their lowest, and also altering the strips to avoid prolonged grazing on the rich grass roots. Within a permanent paddock temporary electric fencing is perfect for this.
An effective way to strip graze and ensure that horses get enough exercise is to make a track around a paddock – when the water is kept at one end then the horses will be encouraged to move around all day. The temporary electric fencing can then be moved depending on weather and grass growth.
Remember however that all horses should eat a minimum of 2.5% of their bodyweight as food and restricting intake will not help with weight control. In fact your horse is at greater risk of developing problems such as gastric ulcers, stereotypic behaviour, colic, or dental problems. It’s important therefore to consider their calorie intake rather than volume of food – it may be recommended to supplement grazing with low calorie feed to extend their chewing time.
There are also certain types of temporary fences which are portable so that if you take a horse out riding or attend a show you can allow them to rest and graze securely by erecting the temporary fence to create a small area for them. These fences are usually light and easily packed into a rucksack, and ensure that your horse is getting all the exercise they need as part of a weight loss regime.
Overall electric fencing can be a valuable asset in securing horses safely and cost-effectively. There is a solution for almost any requirement; if you are unsure of what you might need there are useful online tools which can help you define your electric fence needs and get the best for you and your horses.
Olivia Henderson is the content specialist for Fi-Shock – a world leaders in electric fence systems. Fi-Shock electric fencing systems provide safe, superior quality energisers, accessories, conductors (tape wire and rope), insulators, and electric fence components. Electric fences are an economical alternative to conventional or barbed wire fences.<