Pet Talk: Horse enclosures vary by need

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With the numerous stall designs and materials available today, making a decision on which will be the safest and most effective for your equine may seem difficult.

When it comes to making this informed decision, the best fencing to use is dependent on several factors, including size of the horses, size of the property, number of horses, and whether they are enclosed as a group or separately.

“For example, minis could be housed safely in a much shorter fence than Warmbloods,” said Dr. Leslie Easterwood, assistant clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“The safest fence is one that keeps the horses from being able to stick their feet or heads through the fence, is tall enough to discourage jumping over, and does not have other horses directly across the fence.”

Wood or synthetic materials are safe to use for plank fences but may become dangerous if theysplinter or impale the horse when dislodged.

“Electric wires and tapes can be utilized in an attempt to keep horses away from the fences, but are not always effective if they ‘ground out’ or the charger is not operational,” said Dr. Easterwood.

These can be quite effective, but as with any fence, they require regular maintenance to ensure that they are operational.

Many owners choose either a mesh or slick wire fence, while others prefer barbed wire. This decision must be based on numerous factors, such as the number of horses within the enclosure, or if kept separated, the proximity they are to each other.

“For example, it would not be a good idea to choose a three-strand barbed wire fence if your horses will be housed across the fence from each other,” said Dr. Easterwood. “They will generally approach each other across the fence, strike at each other with their front feet and cause a heel bulb laceration that can be quite serious and even fatal in some cases.”

But on the other hand, barbed-wire fences for very large pastures with no horses across the fences to encourage engagement near the fence could be quite safe.

“Some factors to always consider are the type of horses, number of horses on the property, number that will be housed together, finances (as some fencing options are cheaper or more expensive than others), and safety of materials,” said Dr. Easterwood.

While you’re deciding which fencing will be the safest and most effective for your horses, keep in mind that any material can be made safe if designed and built properly to prevent injury in your specific situation.

There is no clear answer as to what enclosure type is best or safe for every environment; it is entirely dependent on these many different factors.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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