Electric Fencing for Horses - Pros and Cons

April 08, 2020

Electric Fencing for Horses - Pros and Cons

 

“Fences are icons of the American landscape.” — Smithsonian Institution

 

In the mid 1800s American settlers moved from South and West searching for new land. In the Northeast where they previously loved, wood and stone were abundant, such was labor. In treeless lands with little stones farmers had to find an acceptable substitute, hence the invention of barbed wire fencing in 1873 by De Klan in a County Fair in Illinois.

Fences are used to identify property boundaries and are designed to prevent intruders from coming in and keeping livestock corralled within the property. Back in the day, barricades were built of crude materials such as brush, rocks, stones, and fallen timber. Today, fences are constructed from wood, metal, and even some human-made materials.



Types of fences

  • Post and rail
  • A conventional barrier
  • Electric
  • A combination of barrier and electric



Fence Construction

Posts

Posts are materials strong enough to support the weight of the fence wires and separate the individual wires such as concrete, wood, steel, or fiberglass. Ideally, posts are set 50 centimeters or deeper into the ground especially in wet areas. However, the depth of the posts depends on the height of the required fence which is determined by how high your horses can jump. Additionally, you may need to install anti-sink plates to wet areas to avoid posts sinking further into the ground. Posts can be anywhere between six to twenty meters apart depending on the material used to coral the horses.



End assemblies

There are four major types of end assembly

  1. Horizontal stay assembly
  2. Diagonal stay assembly
  3. Tie back stay assembly
  4. Breast block stay assembly

Note that the last two options are more likely to be used in setting up an electric fence.

End assemblies are where you position your Strainer post, which is usually found at the tip of a fence line. It is one of the most critical posts because it secures the fence lines. End assemblies carry the tension of the fence and hold any gates in place if absolutely necessary. Finding the perfect position for the Strainer post is vital and delegates taking a good look at the surrounding terrain. The terrain and soil will prescribe the type of end assembly you erect. You need to take a good look at the condition of your post. They must be straight and independent of vulnerable spots that could create issues when the post is put under strain. Generally, strainers are double the height of the fence, but as we've discussed earlier, the type of soil they are put into influences this rule. A SED of 200mm is the right size for most situations. End assemblies must always put in at a 90°angle to the ground.



Wire

HTP Line — high tensile polymer line is a high tensile steel wire coated in polymer. This polymer coating helps to prevent the cable from cutting into a horse while providing the wire with flexible strength.

Hot-Coat HTW (Conductive Polymer Coating) — This type of wire features a tri-set of electroplated high tensile steel wires coated in polymer. The Hot-Coat HTP conducts electricity; it serves as both an electric fence and a reliable way to hold horses, because of the fence’s capacity to receive impact.

Bare wire — a single-strand wire that offers the protection of an electric fence at a low cost.

Polymer line — Polymer line is made of only polymer, creating safe and lightweight fencing.

High Tensile Wire — Electric fences often use smooth steel wire. They're composed of anything ranging from a fine thin wire used as a single line to thicker, high-tensile (HT) wire.



Electric Fencing

According to an article by Agrisellex.co.uk: The earliest mentions of Electric Fences can be found in a variety of publications, Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope. First published in 1832, it describes an arrangement of wires connected with an electrical machine used to protect a display called "Dorfeuille's Hell" in the Western Museum of natural history in Cincinnati, which she herself invented. Published in 1870, Chapter 22 of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, describes, "The Lightning Bolts of Captain Nemo" used for the electrification of a structure as a defensive weapon. Published in 1889, Mark Twain's novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court uses an electric fence for defensive purposes.

David H. Wilson obtained the United States Patent 343939 in 1886, combining protection, an alarm bell, and telephone communications. He constructed a temporary 30-mile electric fence energized by a water wheel in Texas in 1888, but it was not successful. 

The electric fence was used as long ago as the late 19th century by ranchers in Texas as a way to contain their cattle. The barriers were intended to be less dangerous to the animals than barbed wire, but as with all early fence designs, these were impractical, very dangerous, and their use was not widespread.

These fences were all based on the standard electricity as we know in the current mains system and consequently decidedly dangerous.

While conventional fencing creates a physical boundary to prevent animals from wandering through your area, electric fencing relies on an electrical hookup to restrain the animals. A power energizer generates a high voltage pulse, which is sent through the fence in a consistent rhythm, about once every second.

If the current is interrupted by an animal that touches both the fence and the ground simultaneously, that animal receives an electric shock. The intensity of the electrical shock depends on several factors, including the energy of the pulse that is sent through the fence, so the strength of the shock can be adjusted to accommodate the animals it is used to contain.



Pros and Cons of Electric Fencing

 

THE ADVANTAGES:

Some of the benefits of investing in an electric fence are, to start with, it's a significant security impediment to burglary, vandalism, and trespassing. Also, they are almost effortless to build because of their light material construction, and the maintenance involved is exceptionally minimal. Another significant advantage is that it's a durable method of fencing, one that you can depend on to last many years. There are also many specific preferences that you can opt for to ensure that the fence satisfies your needs exactly.

 

Safety - Traditional fencing methods such as wooden fencing or barbed wire can be dangerous if your horse walks into or gets tangled in said fencing. Electric fencing usually comprises an electrical wire, rope, or tape, that will not break when trampled by a horse's legs like barbed wire would. Also, the shock your horse feels upon touching an electric fence creates a psychological barrier. This psychological barrier encourages the animal to avoid touching the fence, therefore reducing the risk of injury. Plus, electric fencing helps to protect your horses from trespassing animals that could potentially bring injury, pests and/or disease. 

 

Flexibility - Once traditional fencing is installed, it cannot easily be moved. Electric fencing is more flexible in the sense of portability. It’s a practical option for permanent, semi-permanent, or portable fencing.

 

Lower Cost - One of the huge disadvantages of conventional fencing is the cost of building it. Barbed wire, wooden and PVC fencing are all expensive to purchase, and becomes a hefty expense if you intend to fence a big area. Compared to traditional fencing, electric fencing is much less costly to acquire.

 

Ease of Installation - The installation of conventional fencing is labor-intensive. Electric fencing, on the other hand, is much more manageable to install. Instead of digging holes to accommodate fence posts and hammering nails to attach panels, electric fencing highlights smaller diameter poles or rods, making it much easier to put together.

 

Elimination of Cribbing - If you need a fence to contain horses then electric fencing has a great advantage over wooden fencing because it eliminates the fence cribbing. Cribbing is a major issue with wooden or PVC type fencing that gradually damages panels of fencing. There are no surfaces for a horse to crib on with electric fencing, and if the horse did try to do so, the jolt they receive would deter them.



THE DISADVANTAGES:

One of the more prominent disadvantages of installing an electric fence is that it requires frequent maintenance. There are many rules and regulations involved, one that you need to verify with your local council to guarantee even installing one is permitted. Another disadvantage is that you must continually maintain the neighboring plant life. If foliage is not trimmed correctly, they could pose a fire hazard. It would be best if you also warranted the fence is appropriately grounded; otherwise, it may become either hazardous or ineffective.

 

Vulnerability to Power Outages - An electric fence relies on constantly running electricity. If your estate encounters a power interruption, the fence ceases to be functional until the electricity returns. But because the shock of coming in contact with an electric fence produces a psychological barrier which trains a horse not to come near the fence, the electric fence will still serve as a barrier despite the power shortage, as long as your horses have beforehand been "trained" to steer clear of the fence.

 

Appearance - Some property owners would prefer the traditional aesthetic appearance of wooden fencing. While an electric fence doesn’t offer the same aesthetic appeal, it can, however, be coupled with wood or PVC fencing benefits of an electric fence.

 

The choice is up to you on whether you choose to have electric or traditional fencing installed. But before you make your decision, be sure to consult with a professional. Some terrain is more suitable than others for electric fencing. While it may seem like a good option to keep your horses safe, it may pose a risk to the people working around it. Look for an established company who will be honest with you and weight out the pros and cons of installing an electric horse fence on your property. And if possible, source your materials and labor from just one company. It will make things easier for you in the long run because your service provider and supplier come from the same area.





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