Tips on Hiring a Fence Contractor
Good fences start with proper installation. While some horse owners install their own fences, most rely on a fence contractor for professional installation to ensure their valuable horses are safely enclosed. An experienced fence contractor also can help you select the best fencing materials for your land, budget and needs.
A properly constructed, professionally installed fence will last longer, look nicer and protect horses better than one that is not installed correctly. The American Fence Association (AFA) recommends those who hire a fence contractor should insist upon:
1. Product Samples: Reputable fence contractors have product samples available so consumers can see and feel the differences among materials.
2. Written Contracts: Before digging any postholes, the fence contractor and horse owner should come to a written agreement about materials and installation. The contract will specify exactly what the owner expects the fence contractor to deliver.
3. Certificates of Insurance: Fence contractors should show proof of insurance.
4. References: Horse owners should ask for and check references of the fence contractor. Ask the reference if the contractor finished the fence on time, installed it properly, stayed within the budget, etc.
Good advice is to use a fence contractor who is a member of the American Fence Association (AFA). AFA members adhere to a strict code of ethics, keep current about new products and techniques, and are backed by an Ethics and Grievance Board that will help resolve rare disputes between fence contractors and customers.
In addition, many AFA members go one step further by becoming a Certified Fence Professional (CFP). CFPs must complete continuing education classes then pass a rigorous written exam before attaining the distinction. To remain a CFP, the contractor must retest every three years.
Selecting a Fence Type
Once you retain a fence contractor, the next choice is the type of fence to install. The top five concerns about horse fencing are:
From electric fencing to vinyl systems, flexible fence with high-tensile wire and wire mesh to traditional and plastic-coated wood enclosures, horse owners have a wide variety of style and material choices.
Electric horse fencing is a psychological and a physical barrier. Horses are trained that they will receive a shock if they touch the fence. Many horse owners turn to electric fences to prevent injuries associated with fences.
In the past when electric fence consisted of electrified bare wires, horse owners shied away from it. However, now electrified fencing is offered in PVC-coated wire, mesh and braid. Electrified mesh is made of polyethylene polymer woven with wires to contain the horses. Electric braid fencing, a relatively new product, is installed to posts and is made of braided polyester.
One of vinyl fencing's first applications was in the equine industry because it prevents injury to horses and requires no traditional maintenance. In addition, most vinyl fences used to enclose horses are white, which can keep horses from colliding with them at night (other colors are also available), and horses are not likely to crib on vinyl fences.
The vinyl itself is very strong, and vinyl fence construction contributes to the ultimate strength and durability of the fence. Vinyl fences are also free from traditional fence maintenance. Many vinyl fences also come with long warranties, some up to a lifetime.
Flexible Fence with High-Tensile Wire
Plastic-coated high tensile wire products continue to be popular, relatively inexpensive horse fence. From 5" rail made of three wires encased in polymer to single polymer-coated strands, to electrified coated wire, the choices for horse owners are virtually limitless. Often, horse owners choose to make the top wire of fence electrified to discourage horses from leaning on the top of the fence.
High tensile wire fencing requires little upkeep. Although it stretches if a horse steps on it, it goes right back into place. Similarly, if a tree falls on it or a car hits it, the wire might have to be restretched, but it's an easy repair. Wires are usually attached to pressure treated Southern yellow pine posts to ensure a long lasting fence, and the fence is usually between 52" and 54" tall.
Wire mesh fencing constructed of galvanized wire that is highly visible, rust resistant, and does not require much maintenance keeps horses in the paddock and keeps other animals out. The mesh openings are no larger than 2" x 4", so horses' hooves can't step through the fence, making it especially safe. The rectangular mesh has a smooth edge that protects the horses if they rub on it. The material will simply spring back if stepped on, which protects animals from injury and minimizes repairs.
Wood and Plastic-coated Wood
Wooden post and rail and split rail have always been the traditional fences of choice for horse owners. Most wood fences are painted white or black, or are stained to help protect the wood from drying out and to look attractive. While painting and staining increase the life of the fence, they also add to upkeep because the fence will need to be repainted or restained from time to time. Wood fences can be subject to rotting and damage from horses, so they require additional maintenance in exchange for their traditional good looks. Since damage is most often done by horses, owners sometimes add an electric wire above the top rail to keep the horses off the fence.
Plastic-coated wood fences combine the strength of wood and the maintenance-free benefits of vinyl. Plastic-coated wood is stronger than all-vinyl materials, the plastic coating contains splintering if the fence breaks, and horses don't chew on the plastic. These fences and gates are constructed like wood fences, making them easy to install and eliminating the need for steel reinforcements for strength. The only maintenance required is periodic washing.
Information courtesy of the American Fence Association, Inc. No matter what type of fence a horse owner chooses, proper installation and quality materials will contribute to the long life of the fence and the safety of your horses. Contact AFA today for a reputable fence contractor in your area at (800) 822-4342 or visit www.AmericanFenceAssociation.com.