Can You Keep Horses in Wire Fencing?
When I first bought our current farm and had to prepare it for horses, I was a little overwhelmed at figuring out the fencing situation. There was wire fencing in place, but I didn’t know if it was suitable for horses or not. In this article, I want to share everything I’ve learned about wire fencing for horses!
Are there wire fencing options for horses? There are several wire fencing options for horses, including woven wire, welded wire, v-mesh, high tensile, and even chain link. While there are benefits to each of these designs, there are also significant differences, which means that the right wire fencing will depend on you, your horse, and your property.
While I found myself spending hours researching the different types of wire fencing, you don’t have to – here you can find a summary of the different types of wire used in horse fencing and the pros and cons of each.
Should You Use Wire Fencing for Horses?
Yes, wood horse fencing is beautiful. There is something about seeing acres of pristine white rail fencing that screams “horse ranch.” But believe it or not, this type of fencing isn’t the ideal means of containment for every operation.
Wood is strong and sturdy, but it has no give. A horse who runs into a fence will be better off if that structure has some give to it to absorb the impact of the horse and remain an effective means of containment.
The other benefit of wire over wood or PVC is cost. Depending on how much land needs to be fenced, it will cost thousands of dollars less to install wire fencing than wood fencing, especially when metal T-posts are used instead of wooden posts.
The short answer is yes, you can use wire fencing for horses. The long answer is that although horses can be confined by wire fencing, there are also safety concerns raised by certain types of wire fencing and T-posts. Educate yourself on these concerns so you can make the necessary changes.
Safely Using Wire Fencing with Horses
The biggest safety concern with wire fencing is the size of the gaps in the fencing. The gaps or grids, holes, or squares of wire fencing can come in sizes ranging from ⅛” to 8” squares. The smallest of gaps are usually found in hardware cloth, which I love for my garden boxes and my chickens but can be too expensive to use in the pastures.
The largest gaps are usually found at the top of “graduated” hog panels. Larger grids can be dangerous for horses as they can get a hoof caught in one of the gaps. When this happens, more often than not it leads to an avoidable tragedy. Because I also have smaller livestock, I prefer fencing with gaps no larger than 2” x 4”.
Wire strand fencing and barbed wire can be especially dangerous for horses. If the wire is not tight enough or if the horse manages to get a leg through it, the horse can easily become wrapped up in the wire. When the horse struggles to free itself, the wire can tighten and rip the skin. I would avoid this type of fencing altogether.
Lastly, while T-posts are much easier to put in the ground compared to wooden posts, the tips of a T-post can be a safety hazard to your horse. These tips tend to be sharp, and if a horse reared or bucked and came down on one, it could easily puncture the horse. The good news is that they make plastic cap coverings you can put on the tip of the T-post to make it less of a hazard.
Different Types of Wire Fencing for Horses
There are different types of wire used for horse fencing, and most of them are comprised of some type of galvanized steel. There are also several different designs used when creating wire fencing, most of them with grids of some sort, and each with different advantages and disadvantages.
Woven Wire Horse Fencing
Woven wire is one of the more commonly seen horse fencing options around. It consists of rectangles spaced in varying dimensions – on my own property I replaced the old 6”x6” woven wire the previous owners of our home used for their pigs with 2”x4” wire that is more suitable for smaller livestock in addition to horses. In woven wire, the “joints” of the rectangles are created by spirals, or twists, of wire that is tightened to secure its shape.
In my experience, the biggest advantage of woven wire is the flexibility in the joints. If an animal rubs against the woven wire, it bends. I find this preferable because it typically “bounces” back into shape, leading to a more durable fencing option. I have found few disadvantages to woven wire, other than the low visibility, an issue with all wire fencing, and the slightly higher cost than some other wire fencing.
Welded Wire Horse Fencing
Welded wire fencing looks similar to woven wire and may come in the same sizes and designs, but the joints are created through welding instead of twists. I also have welded wire fencing on my property, and I’ve found it much less durable than woven wire. The welded joints lack flexibility, and as animals rub or lean against them, a wire in the middle can snap right off. This leads to more snapping joints until a large hole is formed.
The biggest advantage I’ve found with welded wire over woven wire is the much lower price. Because of that, I would absolutely recommend it for poultry – but not for heavier animals. The only time I would use it for horses is if you have an electric wire or tape over the top of the woven wire fence. This would deter the horses from leaning and rubbing on the woven wire.
High-Tensile Wire Horse Fencing
For a material to be considered “high-tensile,” it must have a carbon steel content of at least 28%. Most wire fencing has a carbon content of no more than 10%. The higher the carbon content, the stronger the wire. As an example, two strands of 12-gauge barbed wire will break at a load of around 950 pounds, while a single strand of 12-gauge high-tensile wire will only break under around 1,350 pounds or more. High tensile can be found in a fixed woven-wire design but is pricey and not always easy to find. It is most often found as a smooth wire, where several strands are run parallel to one another.
The advantage of high-tensile wire is its strength. The biggest disadvantage is its low visibility, which can lead to a dangerous situation with a horse that runs into it. The smooth wires can easily cut into a horse’s skin should one collide with the fence. This is also the type of wire I mentioned in the safety section; a horse can easily become wrapped up in it. You should be very careful to use this type of fencing, and I wouldn’t put a horse that tends to test fencing in a field boxed off by this.
V-Mesh (No-Climb) Wire Fencing for Horses
Instead of the rectangular grids that most wire fencing can be found in, v-mesh fencing comes in a diamond shape, similar to but narrower than chain link fencing. This is the best kind of fencing to keep small critters out and your horses in because of the shape of the gaps in the fence. Because most v-mesh is also woven wire, it is a durable type of wire fencing. The biggest downside to v-mesh fencing is that it is generally higher in cost than the previous three options.
Chain Link Fencing for Horses
You don’t often see chain link fencing used on horse ranches, but it isn’t unheard of. Chain link is very strong and sturdy, and has the added bonus of give should a collision occur. While I don’t see it used frequently in my area for livestock, I’ve heard of chain link that has been used on horse ranches for 40, 50, or even 60 years without issue.
There is some concern that a horse can get a hoof caught in one of the gaps while kicking or “horsing around,” but this is a concern with larger gaps of any type of fence (the reason that I prefer 2”x4” spacing). The main downside, and probably the reason that it isn’t seen on ranches more often, is the much higher cost per panel compared to the rolls of wire fencing.
Using Electric Fencing for Horses
Most of the disadvantages of the wire fencing options listed above can be mitigated by adding a “hot wire” to the top of the fence. Electric wires will prevent horses from rubbing against them and leaning on them, extending the life and durability of the fencing. If you aren’t able to hard-wire the electric fencing, you can purchase solar batteries that can be erected virtually anywhere. When choosing electric fencing, I prefer the high-visibility of the electric tape over the smoother wire. It’s easier for the horse to see and can prevent unwanted contact. I’ve had success using hot wires at the top of our wire fencing to keep horses from escaping to greener pastures.
Can You Use Barbed Wire for Horse Fencing?
Barbed wire is commonly used to contain livestock like cattle and even pigs, but is generally not recommended for horses. Horses spook more easily than cattle, and a run-in with barbed wire can lead to an injured, panicked, and even entangled horse. Unlike hot wire, barbed wire is not harmless.
Securing Your Wire Horse Fencing
All of that fencing needs something to hold it up, and that’s where your posts come in. You can accomplish this with wooden posts or metal T-posts. I like to use wooden posts for at least my corner and gate posts, cemented into the ground. Using T-posts for straight lines of pasture also works well, but may need more frequent adjusting. The biggest advantage of using T-posts is the cost. The last wooden post I purchased was $15, but the last T-post I purchased was only $5. This makes a big difference when you’re putting in a significant amount of fencing.
Using the Right Fencing for Your Horse
The right kind of fencing for you will depend on your horse’s needs, your budget, and what is available in your area. There is no perfect type of fencing, but there are many options, and supplements, like hot wire, you can add to increase the effectiveness of your fence. My advice is to find out what’s available in your area and start pricing out some options. The best fence will keep your horse contained and safe, and all of these options can be designed to do just that.
If you want to learn about the best fencing options for horses, check out my article Horse Fencing: 5 Best Options For Horse Farms.