Gone are the days when it was believed that electric fencing was painful, unsafe, expensive, unreliable and difficult to maintain. In fact, the opposite is true. Subsequently 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 large and strong animal, securely containing a horse can be a challenge. However as they are domesticable, they’re not likely to leave familiar surroundings if they’re properly cared for. This is what makes electrical fencing so effective; the current running through them is not enough to hurt but instead gives a small shock which is simply enough to teach them to avoid the fence in future. If they are properly looked after then they will have no reason to go near the fencing at all.
The electrical fencing works by putting a high voltage, low current pulse, approximately once per second, through a conductive fence line via an energiser. The fence line must be totally insulated from the ground so that when the horse touches the ‘live’ fence line, the horse completes the circuit, causing it to feel a shock as the current flows through its body, into the ground and back to the energiser via the earth stake.
Fences can be powered either by the mains or by a battery. In either case, however, an energiser is needed to convert the power so that it will energise the fence. The type of energiser will depend on the source of the power as well as the length of the fence.
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.
Electric wiring can be used to replace other fencing or can be used in conjunction with wooden and other traditional fencing materials in order to protect horses and the fence from damage. A single electrical wire or tape, held by insulators, running along the top of a wooden fence or a standalone permanent or semi-permanent fence in place of other fencing materials should be sufficient.
For standalone fencing, plastic posts are used, usually with electrical tape. Horse’s vision is not as good as our own, and therefore they are not usually able to pick out a thin electrical wire. If the first thing they know about encountering the wire is the shock, this may cause them to panic and push through the line - causing more damage to themselves and the fencing. Tape, which is thicker than wire, in a contrasting colour to the environment, is usually best as it makes the wire as visible as possible.
Installing an electrical fence is also much easier than traditional fencing. It can be done by one person, with minimal tools, saving on time and labour.
As well as keeping the horses securely contained, the electrical fencing is effective at keeping other animals out of grazing and paddock areas. Animals such as foxes could spook the horses or contaminate the area, causing illness.
There are several different types of electrical fencing: permanent; semi-permanent and temporary, and different components and ways to construct a fence. Permanent solutions will typically last for several decades, and as the name suggests, are fixed into position. High Tensile electric fence systems are very strong and can be used with very large horses. Semi-permanent electrical fences are more flexible and can be moved so that the fencing can be altered as animal control needs change over the years. Temporary fencing is the most flexible solution and can be changed to meet your needs as and when required. It can also be added to permanent electric fencing, for example, to create paddock areas which are only needed for a short time, such as isolation areas in case of illness or aggression, or for strip grazing.
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 is 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. Strip grazing can be used for pasture control to avoid this, 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.
Temporary electric fencing is also highly effective for segregating horses should one become ill, therefore preventing the spread of illness. It can also be used when breeding to contain the stallion, particularly when mares are present. The current for this purpose may need to be higher than usual in order to act as sufficient deterrent., so it is important to make sure you have properly researched what is best for your individual situation.
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.
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 HYPERLINK "http://www.electricfencingcentral.co.uk/"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.