Electric Fencing is one of the best ways to keep your horse or pony safe. For the vast majority of horses and ponies after the first few shocks from the fence it will act as a psychological barrier to prevent them touching the fence again. An electric fence will not hurt a horse or pony, or other animals or people. It gives an unpleasant shock that stops as soon as contact with the fence is broken. In short, electric fencing should keep your horses where you want them to stay (away from your neighbours field, that tasty grass or the other horse it either loves too much or too little!).
Electric fencing is particularly effective with horses, especially well clipped horses and horses with metal shoes. You can either use ‘temporary’ electric fencing, or ‘permanent’ electric fencing. ‘Temporary’ fencing uses plastic polyposts with a long metal spike that is easily installed in the ground and can be moved around for strip grazing or as required. ‘Permanent’ electric fencing is electrified tape, rope or wire that is run around your permanent wooden posts, or run along the top of post and rail fencing. If you are using wooden posts you will need electric fencing insulators – which are plastic clips or rings that screw into the fence post and prevent the electrified tape or wire from coming into contact with the wooden post. The electrified tape or rope must never touch anything conductive, such as wooden posts, leaves, branches or tall brush as this will allow the electricity to run off the fence and into the ground, dramatically reducing the effectiveness of the fence.
For a temporary fence, you will need a plastic polypost spaces approximately every 10 m or less. You can choose to run either 12 mm, 20 mm or 40 mm electric fencing tape or 6 mm electric fencing rope around your posts. The tape or rope will break should your horse run through it, which will prevent injury. Do not use wire or heavy duty twine for horses because it will not break and could end up injuring your horse. When selecting your tape or rope, give consideration to the number of metal conductors running through the tape or rope. The more conductors and the thicker the conductors, the more current your tape or rope will be able to carry. You want to give your horse or pony as big a shock as possible (especially to start with) to ensure they learn to respect the fence. This may seem mean, but remember that you are doing it to keep them safe and it does not really ‘hurt’ – it is just unpleasant.
If you have wooden posts, you can space them between 10 m and 15 m apart. The trick is to ensure the tape or rope is kept taught and not left to flap in the wind (which would cause unnecessary wear and tear).
Electric fencing does not need to go around in a circle. You can have one long line of fencing, if desired. The electrical ‘loop’ is made with the earth stake, rather than with a loop of electric fencing tape or rope. In fact, the earth stake is the most important and perhaps most overlooked part of the electric fence – without it, your fence won’t work. Your earth stake should be pushed as low into the ground as possible, and on particularly dry spells you may need to water it. For very large fences or in very dry countries you may have multiple earth stakes, connected to the same energiser. You can never have too many earth stakes, or an earth stake that is too big!
Selecting your electric fence tape or rope is partially based on the type of fence and land you have, and partly based on taste. First of all, if you are in a windy spot, we do not recommend 40 mm tape as it catches in the wind. If you are in a sheltered spot or have a very long fence, 40 mm tape is superior t0 20 mm tape because it has more conductors – but it is also more expensive! 20 mm tape is perhaps the most popular choice for use with horses, perhaps due to the cheaper price point and because it is easy for the horse to see. 12 mm tape is unusual, but perfectly acceptable for short fences. 6 mm rope is my personal favourite, because it seems to wear a little better, it is strong and it ccan give a good shock. There are various ‘standards’ of tape and rope – I try to find ones with 6 conductors or more (avoid the options with 4 conductors which don’t carry the charge as well and are not as strong). There is much debate about the best coloured tape or rope for horses, which usually come in green, white or yellow. For the human eye, white stands out the most. However, the latest thoughts are that for horses green stands out the most (they see in shades of green). Some national parks insist on green for aesthetic reasons. Based on many years of business, I don’t really think it makes any difference to the horse! Once a horse has a shock, it will likely avoid the fence. The slight clicking sound of the electric fence energiser seems as much a deterrent as the visual sight of the fence. So, pick the colour you like!
For a horse, most people places 2 lines of tape or rope at approximately 120 cm high and 60 cm high. For a pony, these heights are adjusted to 90 cm high and 40 cm high. If you have a very tall horse, go slightly higher, and a very small horse, go slightly lower. It is all a bit of an art, and you can’t really go too far wrong. Just make sure the tape or rope gives the horse a good zap on it’s neck if it rubs up against the fence. It is a good idea to connect both strands of your fence, to make them both ‘positive’ and able to give a shock. Having 2 positive lines prevents any cheeky ponies from trying to duck underneath the fence. You make the second strand ‘live’ by connecting both strands of the fence with a ‘hart to hart’ connector.
The largest investment for your fence is the energiser. If you have easy access to the mains, select a mains energiser as these are the best value, the most reliable and you don’t need to worry about charging or replacing batteries. The cost of running the energiser depensds on the power of the energiser, but for most standard energisers it is about the same cost as having a light bulb on – you should not notice a significant difference on your electricity bill! If you do not have mains access or need to move your fence around, you have a choice of a 12 volt battery energiser, a 9 volt battery energiser or an ‘all-in-one’ solar energiser. In my opinion, this comes down to personal preference. 9 volt energisers typically have replaceable batteries that cannot be recharged. The battery needs to be replaced every 3 months to every year, depending on the battery you select, the energiser and the usage of the fence. Batteries range from £13 to £40. The advantage of this type of energiser is it is light, easy to move and you can mark on your calendar when you need to change the battery and otherwise just forget about it. This type of energiser is ideal for anyone going to events. A 12 volt energiser requires a 12 volt leisure battery (please don’t use a car battery as it can damage the energiser). A Leisure battery costs about £70.00. Most 12 volt energisers will use up a 12 volt battery in about 2 or 3 weeks, at which pouint you will need to bring in the heavy 12 volt battery for a recharge, which can be a pain if you have to carry it long distances. To alleviate this problem, you can get a 10 watt solar panel to sit on top of your 12 volt battery. This will charge up your battery for almost all the year in the UK, although you’ll need to keep an eye on it in the darkest winter months and may need to give the battery a couple of extra boosts from the mains. Finally, you can select an ‘all-in-one’ solar energiser, which is the easiest energiser to use as it includes the energiser, battery and solar panel all in one unit. You simply attach it to your fence and you’re away!
Once you’ve selected the type of energiser you are interested in, you then need to determine the power of energiser that you need. Work out the distance of your fence and select an energiser that will work for this distance, always ensuring you are looking at the ‘realistic’ length allowing for ‘light’ vegetation. Do NOT rely on the length of fence the energiser will do under ‘perfect’ test conditions. More expensive brands will always offer a ‘realistic’ fence length, but some of the cheaper Chinese options provide unrealistic lenghts, based on ‘perfect’ conditions that will never be replicated in the real world.
Energisers also have a range of features you can consider. Some have different outputs that can be changed for night and day use – so you can ‘turn the fence down’ at night. LED light indicators are useful to alert you when the battery is running low, or when there is a blockage on the line. There are a whole range of other subtly differences and features, but for horses and ponies, these are the most important!
Other items you may wish to consider are tape or rope connectors to join your tape or rope together. Please don’t knot your tape as this will prevent the electricity from flowing correctly and can also damage the tape or rope. A fence tester is another very handy (arguably essential) bit of kit, allowing you to test your fence and energiser. Gate handles and gate handle insulators are useful/essential if you have a gateway.
If you are new to electric fencing you can get a ‘start kit’ with all the basics required for an electric fence for a paddock.
All of the FarmCare Horse Kits can be seen here:
An example of one of our popular kits is our Equine Starter Kit that costs £134.99 and comes with everything you need for a 100 m fence.
FarmCare is a family run business specializing in helping horse owners with their electric fencing and clipper needs. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call. We are happy to help, even just with questions.
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