It’ll never make your friends swoon with envy when they visit your yard. It won’t even make it to the top of the wish-list for your new equestrian home. But good fencing is vital for the welfare of your horses.
Equestrian horse owners, advises the British Horse Society (BHS), should always choose fences that are safe and suitable for horses, such as wooden or impact-resistant plastic post and rails, stone walls, or a combination of post and rail with electric fencing.
Katharine Watters, a property search agent specialising in equestrian homes at The Buying Solution, says that post and rail, if installed and maintained properly, has the double advantage of being both durable and easy on the eye. “The most popular type is sawn post and rail or peeled posts with half round rails, with the best wood being chestnut, she adds, quoting a cost of about £20 per metre that was given to her by Adam Dalton of Haslemere Fencing in West Sussex.
“Many people,” she continues, “also choose to install a guard rail of electric tape or wire for extra security. Not only does this discourage horses from chewing the wood, it also acts as an additional barrier to horses getting too close to neighbouring horses in adjoining paddocks and so offers a level of safety.
“When budget is no object, some choose to install “double” post and rail fencing, which is in effect double fencing with a small gap of about one metre between each paddock. This not only discourages horses from jumping out but also stops horses in adjoining paddocks from fighting over the fence.”
Her colleague Bobby Hall adds that, lately, the buyers he acts for seem to favour stud fencing: “Traditionally, this was post and rail with a hedge infill between two sets of post and rails, which provides a barrier and exclusion zone. Not only is this form of stud fencing safer but it also provides cover in inclement weather.
“With stud fencing, additional safety measures can include the in-filling of corners which negates the 90-degree corner danger zone. We are also seeing the replacement of the horizontal wooden rails with high tensile plastic with impregnated metal wires which looks pretty much like wood but is more durable, longer lasting and safer.”
By contrast, adds the BHS, plain wire, stock fencing, single-strand electric wire and, above all, barbed wire, which can cause devastating injuries to horses, should all be avoided. Hedgerows may also be inadequate if they became weak or have gaps in them, so you may need to supplement them with post and rails.
That said, you should pay as much attention to your fencing’s height, strength and spacing as to the materials. Fences should be high enough to avoid horses jumping or fighting over them but also low enough to prevent a foal or a small pony crawling underneath.
The BHS recommends fencing heights of between 1.08 and 1.38 metres (3.6 ft to 4.6 ft) for horses and 1 to 1.3 metres (3.3 ft to 4.3 ft) for ponies, with the lower rails positioned about half a metre (1ft 6 in) above the ground.
Extra precautions are in order if you have a stallion. Fences should be 1.25- to two-metre (4ft- to 6.5ft-) high with a double fence line if the height is on the lower side of the range. You may also need to add an electric fence along the top of the stallion field boundary.
Obviously, fences should be sturdy to ensure horses cannot break through them. Posts, for example, should be set deeply into the ground to prevent them falling over and should be connected by at least two robust rails.
Maintenance is equally crucial. As agent Luke Morgan of Strutt & Parker cautions, wooden post and rail fencing can rot — not to mention that some horses like to chew it — so it needs to be checked and treated regularly.
Similarly, you’ll need to inspect plastic post and rails to ensure they haven’t weakened or become brittle while, with stone walls, you’ll need to look for water damage, get rid of vegetation and carry out occasional repairs. As a guideline, the BHS recommends inspecting your fences every day.
Although installing and maintaining good fencing can be expensive and time-consuming, investing in it always pays off. For starters, it may make it easier to resell your home when it’s time for you to move on. Granted, people are unlikely to drool over it in the same way as they do over a tip-top Martin Collins manege. But, as specialist equestrian agent William Grant of Fox Grant says, bad fencing can completely put off buyers and devalue your property. And, above all, good fencing keeps your horses safe and you out of trouble — as the BHS explains, you may be liable for damage if inadequate fencing allows your horse to escape.