Smooth wire fencing with hot wire for horses

The highest read posts on my blog are always one of the barn planning posts. People are more interested  in building a horse loafing shed then reading me go on about Big Name Trainers. HA! So my Cunning Plan is to always throw more farm planning information onto the blog to keep those vistation numbers up! DOUBLE HA!

The 10 acre mini-farm where  Big Guy does his retirement boarding, has some awesome horse fence. It’s not expensive board fence but is serviceable, cheaper smooth wire, offset by electric. Wire has it’s major disadvantages, especially when a horse goes through it – and why I would never put it up unless you also use hot wire. However, the reality is that it is cheap and so is the no. 1 fencing material used in my area.

Flat 10 acres with pond and some scrub trees

Where this fence is a standout is because it was done RIGHT. It is pulled tight and has proper end posts for bracing the wire. Without these the fence and gate will eventually sag.

Generally, these posts are sunk in concrete. The upright posts are braced by a cross rail, and the wire is also braced and held with a tightener.


When adding another line of fence, additional posts need to be installed and the bracing continued:

The hot wire is offset on the inside of the pasture fenceline and is powered by a solar panel. If you have too many cloudy days you can back this up with a car battery (gate panel solar kits are sold with such). The white line is the hot wire and the white circle marks the insulator which holds it.

The hot wire (seen in photo below as the black wire on the post) must be buried under the gate so the current is kept unbroken.

What I have found at many barns is people unwilling to do this step properly. Instead, they run the wire across the gate so you have to unhook it (a big pain in the ass). Inevitably, someone gets shocked, or they forget to hook the wire and the current is turned off (the horses figure this out very quickly!).

In the above photo you can also see the smooth wire wrapped around the fence post and making a Y. When installing fence, this must be done with a crank action tool or better yet, tractor, in order to pull the wire as tight as possible. If not done, the fence WILL sag.

I would prefer to have these t-posts capped. They sell plastic toppers or you can use tennis balls. At one of our boarding facilities a horse had been rearing close to the fence line, playing with another horse. He came down on top of a t-post and speared himself – I found him after the accident and miraclously he survived – but with a HUGE scar.

These three horses are seniors, pretty smart about fencing, and the 10 acres allows plenty of room for three horses to play. So far we haven’t had any issues; keep fingers crossed.

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5 Responses to Smooth wire fencing with hot wire for horses

  1. I’m with you over burying cables to carry the current past gates. Where my horses live the manager doesn’t seem to understand anything “technical” like that, to the degree that walkways are obstructed by hot wires doing nothing but carrying current to the paddocks beyond that must be unhooked to move horses about. It’s a huge pain in the ass, and the teenagers with ponies tend to leave those connections on the ground (and paddocks with the wires dead).

    We tend to use timber posts throughout. I’ve never seen metal posts over here other than occasionally ancient ones rusting in fields belonging to big estates. Perhaps timber is that much cheaper? Also we don’t have termites.

    Many of the water pipes run across the surface at the barn too. Last week a run of pipe was ripped up and the fittings smashed when a harrow was dragged across it. I could write an article on “how to create a high-maintenance yard”!

    • horseideology says:

      The metal posts you see are called t-posts. They can be easily tapped into the ground with a t-post driver and are fence posts in between lines of wooden end posts. Right now (depending on length) they run from $3-6 each and I’ve often found them used on Craigslist.

      The round fence posts used here are mostly likely telephone poles. You can buy these soaked in creosote or some other termite repelling chemical.

      I actually think this is the first place I’ve been that did their fencing right. At 3HF they *almost* got it right but didn’t bury the line and as you say it rather defeats the entire purpose of using hot wire when it is NOT HOT! argh!

      Yes the whole water issue — well I do get a LOT of visitors wanting to know how to design a home barn so I hope this helps folks realize that doing it the right way just takes some time and really alleviates the potential for a LOT of later aggravation!

  2. I expect that where the ground is habitually hard a t-post will be easier to hammer in. Over here we use softwood posts of about 3″ to 6″ diametre (and usually at the thinner end of the range) probably because they are cheap. They don’t last well in a damp climate. Corner posts are thicker but rarerly of telegraph pole diametre. We used to see old railroad ties used however these are hard to get hold of now as concrete has been used for so long that few wooden ones remain.

    The thing that bugs me most about the fences where B and D stay is that the cheapest plastic fittings have been used to hold the electric wire so this is ripped down way too often. As usual it’s “lowest capital cost” that appeals to most barn managers.

    Your barn design series is providing a real service. These things are not well enough understood.

    • horseideology says:

      Thanks Julian. I do get a lot of traffic for the barn design but few comments. Hopefully it does help someone!

      Stil common to get RR ties here… They often sell them at garden stores too as edging for beds. I would definitely think the water would be an issue where you are!

      What drives me crazy about barns is that they won’t put the upfront cost in the design and then moan about how much it is costing them in time, money and trouble. Logic doesn’t seem to apply in planning out the location of water, electric or gates. 😦

  3. Pingback: More about wire horse fences « Horse Ideology

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