Buy a few acres and a fence, and you've got a place to keep your horses. Sort of. Fencing, unlike many aspects of horsekeeping, doesn't have to cost a fortune to be effective for most situations. (We'll look at premium fencing in a future issue.) What fencing does have to do, though, is provide your horses with visible or psychological containment.
We all know barbed wire is unsuitable for horses, but it's worth repeating. Cattle-mesh fence doesn't work well for horses either, since a horse can easily get hung up in the wire four-inch squares (other mesh fences work well, but they're costly and therefore in our premium-fence article). The same not-for-horses warning goes for plain high-tensile wire, which can cut a horse, even if it's electrified. We'd avoid using these fences.
Safe economy horse fencing today means braids, ropes and tapes made of poly material. These materials are flexible enough that a running horse probably won't be cut or entangled in it but strong enough to keep the horses in place. And, properly installed, they can be highly visible.
You'll want to run a minimum of three to four strands of rope or tape for most situations, especially if you're trying to get a minimal height of four feet. Any fewer and you risk your horse trying to go under or over the fence. Plus, the thinner the width of tape or rope you choose, the more strands of it you're going to have to use. So just forget about saving tons of money using a thinner (read less visible) product.
Fence dealers claim that their products are strong enough to contain reasonably calm horses. True enough. However, if you choose to use a tape or braid fence, consider including at least one strand of electric wire (not our favorite choice, but for safety's sake this may work as the topmost strand) or electrified tape/rope/encased wire. This is especially important if you're confining the horses to small areas. The smaller the area and the more active the horses turned out in that area, the more likely that fence is going to be tested. Fencing is no place to take chances. The rule of thumb is: The smaller your field, the more important the strength and visibility of your fence.
Fencing needs to make horses believe that they are enclosed. Contrast against the environment is more important than the actual color choice, which is why we like our braid, rope or tape to be white or a blend with white in it. If you live in an area often coated with snow, consider alternating strands of dark-some dealers offer brown and green-and white tape.
The width of the product is extremely important. Thinner tape-sometimes as thin as half an inch-is not as visible as those that reach up to 1 ½", although it tends to be cheaper. If you must save a few pennies, alternate strands of thick and thin tape.
Any tape, rope, or braid fence you purchase should be UV-resistant. The sun wears poly materials down. If you live in a very windy area, you may want to use braid or rope instead of tape, which can sag if it's pummeled by wind. Deep, drifting snow will test whatever fence you have installed.