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Horse fencing is mandatory if you are taking care of horses on your property. However, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to build a simple fence to contain your horse. The most common type of fencing used to contain horses is a wooden board fence, or a post and rail fence. Other options include wire mesh fencing, vinyl fences, electrified horse tape fences, or a combination of the above. No matter what type of fence you decide to erect, the basic common structural element of any horse fence is the posts. So let’s look at how to build a horse fence to contain your equine friend.
- Treated wooden posts 8 to 9 feet (2.4-2.8m)
- Treated wooden boards cut to 6 to 8 feet (1.8-2.4m) lengths
- Nails (or screws)
- Post hole digger (or shovel)
- Spirit level
- Hammer or nail gun (or drill with screwdriver bit if using screws)
- Stakes and string
- Measuring wheel and/or tape measure
- Fast setting cement or concrete (optional)
- Strips of hoop-iron
- Pole/s (wider than the gate opening)
First, to assess what you need in terms of materials, measure out the area that you want to fence using a measuring tape or measuring wheel. You must decide how high you want your fence to be, and how many boards you would like across each section. Bear in mind that your fence must be high enough to contain your biggest horse or highest jumper with the bottom board placed low enough to prevent a small pony, miniature horse, or foal from slipping under, and ideally, the spacing between boards should be small enough to prevent a horse from getting its head through.
The minimum height for horse fencing should be 5-foot (1.5m). Decide how far apart you wish to space the fencing posts. Spacing closer together is more costly, but your fence will be much sturdier in the long run. The spacing between posts should never be more that 8-foot (2.4m) for horse fencing if you are wanting a really strong, robust fence that will withstand the weight of horses leaning upon it.
Stake out where you wish to plant your end posts; run twine or builder’s string tautly between them at the height of the top of the post to set the height of your fence. Measure the distance between posts with a board cut to the correct size, and stake out accordingly. Bear in mind that if you are wanting the boards from either side of the post to meet at the center of the post, you will need to allow space for the board of the next section of fence to be attached adjacent to the current one on the same post. Alternatively, you can stagger the boards, placing one above the other, and alternating this pattern as you go along the fence. This is a very convenient method if the boards are longer than the gaps in the fence and saves you having to cut them to size.
Planting the Posts
Use a post hole digger or shovel to dig the holes for the posts. Poles should be sunk at a minimum depth of 3-foot in heavy clay soil, or 4-foot if they are to be set in soft sandy soil, plus allow another 6 inches for the gravel footing (see below).
Starting with the end posts, place a 6-inch layer of gravel at the base of each hole. This allows water to drain away and prevents the post from rotting. Next, place the post in the center of the hole. Start planting the inline posts in the same manner, making sure each post is straight, and that the top of the post is in line with the string that is stretched between the end posts, so that it will be level with the end posts, and the height of your fence will be even. If it is too low, add a little more soil or gravel, if it is too high, you will need to dig the hole slightly deeper until it is level. If you are not using concrete, some large stones or bricks can be wedged around the pole to make it sturdier, then begin filling in with soil, compacting it as you go. Alternatively, for a stronger post, fill in the hole with quick setting cement or concrete and allow to set. This is recommended if you are planting posts in very loose sandy soil.
Finishes & Gates
Once all the poles are set in the ground, you can start nailing or screwing on the cross boards. Use a tape measure to get the correct spacing between boards. Tack or screw the boards on lightly, checking that they are straight with a spirit level before hammering the nails home or sinking the screws completely. If you make a mistake, it is easier to remove a plank that is lightly fixed than one that is firmly attached onto the post.
Tip: the wooden boards can be replaced with vinyl boards, split poles, wire mesh, or electric horse tape; or the posts and boards can be substituted with an interlocking post and rail system, should different fencing materials be preferred. If you are using interlocking post and rail fencing, then it is better to set one post at a time, slotting the rails in between the posts to complete that section before moving onto the next section of fencing.
A very basic and easy method of adding a gate to your fence is to leave a gap in the fence where you want the opening to be. Simply bend strips of metal hoop-iron to accommodate the diameter of your pole, and nail the top and bottom of the hoop-iron onto the post to form a D-shaped loop. You will need to nail one onto both posts on either side of the gate. All you need to do then is slide a pole through the hoops to open and close the gate. You can use as many poles across the gateway as you wish, but for the sake of uniformity, it is best to place them at the same height as your fencing boards. Bear in mind that some horses may quickly figure out how to slide the poles out, so some form of attachment may be necessary.
Now that you know how to build a horse fence, you can successfully complete your horse fence, and your paddock is ready for your horse. You can introduce him to his new environment with the peace of mind that you have built a sturdy paddock fence that will securely contain him on your property.
Featured Image by Evelyn Simak, via Wikimedia Commons