Wooden posts with 40mm green electric fencing tape fitted
If you are new to electric fencing for horses or ponies, the sheer volume of energisers, insulators and barriers can be daunting. The truth is that electric fencing is very simple and has been complicated by an industry always trying to make improvements or come up with new ideas.
In this article we are going to focus on electric fencing for horses, but most of the principles apply for all electric fencing. Horses are fairly easy to contain with electric fencing. The electric fence will not harm your horse or pony and is actually there as a psychological barrier, to stop your horse or pony escaping to your neighbours field, to another horse or to that very tempting grass which will do him no good!
It is also important to say that the electric fence is perfectly safe for other animals and people, although if you have a pace maker it is best not to touch the fence. If your electric fence is on a public footpath or in a place easily accessible to the general public, you should also have a ‘warning sign’ placed every 50m, just so people aren’t surprised by an unexpected zap (let’s face it, that wouldn’t be a nice surprise for an unsuspecting child or a frail elderly person).
Now, let’s get down to what you NEED:
- You must select your fencing posts. If you already have wooden posts that’s easy. If you don’t have posts, you can easily get some plastic polyposts that have a long spike which simply push into the ground. If possible, it is best to have a few wooden posts every 12m or so, with the plastic posts every 3m. The plastic posts work out a lot cheaper than wooden posts and are easy to move should you be strip grazing or heading to events.
- You must also select your ‘insulators’ These are the devices that go on to any posts or gates, to stop your electrified tape or rope from touching the wood and ‘earthing’. If you are using plastic polyposts, you won’t need many insulators as your posts already have insulators built in. If you are using wooden posts you will need one insulator for each post, for each line of rope or tape. If you are using rope, you will probably want to select ‘ring insulators’. If you are using tape, there are a number of options such as ‘clamp insulators’, ‘multi-purpose insulators’ and my favorite ‘clamp insulators’. I prefer ‘clamp insulators’ as they hold the tape nice and taught, but as I said earlier there are lots of options and most will do the job very well! You can also select ‘distance insulators’, including ‘distance ring insulators’ and ‘distance mutli-purpose insulators’. These ‘distance’ options are good if you have a horse who chews the rail or if there is something you don’t want the horse to lean against. The distance insulators keep your tape or rope about 16 – 20 cm away from the electric fence.
- If you have a gate (most do) you will also want a ‘gate handle’ for each line of tape or rope, plus 2 ‘gate handle insulators’ for each gate handle. These gate handles allow current to run through the gate, but give you a nice insulated handle so you can open and shut the gate without getting a shock.
- Next you need to select your ‘barriers’. For horses we recommend electric fencing rope or tape. This part is important because wire or twine could injure your horse. There are a variety of qualities of electric fencing tape and rope. The more expensive tape and rope has more electrical conductors in it – making it more effective at conducting a shock and also having the added bonus of making it physically stronger. The more expensive tape and rope also usually has better quality plastic filaments that have anti-UV properties, making it last longer. For example, our top range Optima rope comes with a 5 year anti-UV warranty. The tape also comes in different widths; usually 40cm, 20 cm and 12cm. 20cm is by far the most common width, perhaps because it is slightly cheaper that 40cm tape, but can still carry a good current. 40cm tape carries the most current, but is not good in windy areas (it catches the wind and can get knocked about a bit). 12cm tape is ok – but obviously doesn’t have as much space for the conductive metal strands and so it is not as good at passing the electrical current.
- The colour of your tape or rope is really down to personal preference. you usually get a choice of green or white. There is much debate over which colour is best, but little hard evidence. The latest and most respected theory is that horses can strangely see the green tape and rope most easily. However, humans see white most easily. We sell both, and both seem to work! What is interesting, however, is that many national parks insist on green electric fencing tape and rope because it blends in better with the countryside.
- Finally, and arguably most importantly, you need to select your energiser. This is the box that converts your electrical power (from the mains or a battery) into suitable electrical pulses that will travel around your electric fence. If you have access to the mains, then it is best to select a ‘mains energiser’ because these are slightly less expensive and give you the best and most consistent electrical output (at very little expense – for a small energiser it is about the cost of running a 60 watt light-bulb). If you do not have access to the mains, then you need to select a battery operated energiser. There are two types of battery to select from. A 12v rechargeable leisure battery (very similar to a car battery, but with a more consistent electrical output) or a 9v replaceable battery. Of course, there are pros and cons to each. The 12v batteries are heavy and a real pain to lug in to charge (they will need to be recharged about once every 2 or 3 weeks depending on your energiser and your set-up). This can be overcome by also getting a solar panel to mount on top of the battery, which will recharge it for most of the year in the UK (you might need to give it a couple of boosts from the mains in the winter). The 12v batteries are also quite expensive – ours costs £69.99 and our solar panel is £32.99. With all this said, the battery is rechargeable and so once you have laid down the initial cost, you should be set to go for years – especially if you have the solar panel too, so you don’t need to worry about recharging. A 9v battery energiser is very easy to carry around and take to events. You typically need to replace the battery from every 3 months to every year, depending on what type of 9v battery you buy and on how you use your energiser. the 9v batteries start at about £15. Finally, you can also select a ‘solar all-in-one energiser’ that has you energiser, battery and solar panel all built into one unit. not surprisingly, these ‘solar energisers’ are becoming increasongly popular. In terms of cost, all the energisers are pretty comparably, once you factor in the life of the batteries, so it really does come down to personal prefernce.
- Once you have selected if you want a ‘mains energiser’, ’12v battery energiser’ or a ‘9v battery energiser, you can then look at the features of the different energisers. Start by selecting one that will do the length of fence that you need. be careful to make sure you look at the ‘relaistic length of fence’ advertised by the energiser, rather than the length of fence the energiser can do at optimum ‘test conditions’. If you are looking at good brands, they will make this clear. You always want a slightly more powerful energiser, just so you have enough power to push through any blockages on the fence. When you have determined which energisers are suitable for your length of fence, you can look at the other features on offer. These ‘other features’ are typically things like day and night settings, the ability to speed up and slow down your electrical fence pulse, built-in back-up power sources so your fence is always live even if your battery runs out, LED panels to tell you how your fence is performing…..the list goes on! The features I find most useful are a light that indicates when the battery is getting low, the back-up power source is handy if you don’t have a solar panel, and depending on where you have your fence an on’off switch on the energiser can be useful.
- Tape and rope connectors are good to have to avoid tying knots in your tape or rope (knots hinder the electrical pulse and can also damage your tape or rope). A fence tester is also very handy to have in your kit. And an earth stake is a MUST! Some energisers come with an earth stake, but many do not.
There are a million other options and gizmos, but if you have the above, you’ll have everything you need to get started. You can then add bits as you go along, as you tweak your fence over the years.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. We have a umber of equine ‘start kits’ to help people get going, and we are also happy to have a chat and build a kit for your specific paddock or set-up.
One of our popular Equine Starter Kits: £134.99
Electric Fencing and Clipper Specialist