Monday, October 6, 2008

Ranch Tour - The Fence

Thanks, everyone, for your comments on the fence.
p.s. I can't believe nobody has picked up on the snake hanging in one of the pictures.

During our trip to the vet last week, I remembered that I never got around to my fence post. The memory trigger was seeing a 17-year-old Arabian with two legs bandaged from his hooves to above his hocks, the inside of another leg stripped of all its hide, and stitches running from the base of his ear to in front of his right jaw, closing the giant flap on the side of his head that he ripped open in an argument he lost with a wire fence. Don’t worry - I didn’t take a picture.

My point is, when it comes to choosing a fence to contain horses, I strongly believe the key points to consider are: 1) safety, 2) safety and 3) safety. And that’s why I used electric tape fencing at the 7MSN, specifically Horseguard.

I love my fence...all 2.25 miles of it.

Sure, I could have done what all the other ranchers around here have done...

But all I can think about when I look at barbed wire and bare-top t-posts is an accident waiting to happen, and the reality that vets don’t make farm calls in the middle of nowhere.

So I had my contractor construct the corner pipe posts and braces and pound in all the t posts (around 800), then I took it from there.

I attached all the connectors and t-post tops, then strung and stretched all the tape. It wasn’t hard, just tedious. But it kept me out of trouble for many weekends while the house was being built.

The Horseguard tape contains 10 strands of stainless steel to conduct the electricity. Apparently stainless steel doesn’t corrode, as does copper. The connectors are made of UV-resistant plastic.

The t-post tops cover the chest-impaling steel and serve to hold the top strand of tape.

The tape is easily spliced with stainless steel thingamajigs. Overall, the design and engineering of every component of the Horseguard system never ceases to amaze me (and nobody is paying me to say this). Understand that I know NOTHING about electricity, other than it scares the bejesus out of me. But I still managed to figure out how to build the darned thing, and it worked from day one.

This is my very sophisticated power switch. Makes me feel a little like Dr. Frankenstein when I turn it off and on.

The horses and burros sense the current and don’t get near the fence. This handy-dandy tester lets me know it’s working.

The only downside to this fence that I’ve encountered is lightning. The instruction manual clearly states “unplug the charger during electrical storms.” During the first big storm of this past summer, I got so preoccupied watching the rain that I forgot to do that. And wouldn’t you know...lightning struck the fence. It blew out the fuses in the fence charger and the power surge fried my computer, which was not plugged in to a sufficiently large surge protector. That was a lesson learned the hard way.

Anyone who has horses in their life knows what a challenge it is to keep them healthy and safe. If there's a way to hurt themselves, they'll find it. I sleep better at night knowing that Hank, Lyle, George and Alan are contained within the safest fence I could find.


  1. Interesting. Has the electric fence affected your power bill? I wonder if people (rural and self reliant) like you will feel much of a sting during the tumultuous economic times that are predicted. What do you think?

  2. Love your fence, love your photos, & I'm way impressed with your ingenuity at putting stuff like that together & having it work.

    Barbed wire - ick. None of us humans saw the small piece of wire that was left in Shiloh's pasture. Shiloh found it and managed to tangle his right rear leg in it. Good thing Shiloh likes his vet because he saw a lot of him during the healing process. Good thing we have a vet extraordinaire when it comes to wrapping horse legs & calming down worried horse moms.

    Janet & Shiloh

  3. I was talked into getting NZ fencing when I had my worked great for awhile and then one of my mares stuck her leg thru it while rolling around and peeled her skin off from her hock down to her hoof. Lesson learned. I am definitely a firm believer in SAFETY when it comes to horses....I like that horseguard fencing, my other favorite is no-climb (which I have now). Electricity prices? Cheaper in the long run than Vet bills.
    By the way I LOVE your on/off gave me a good chuckle! :)

  4. Good question, Maybelline. The cost to operate an electric fence charger is only a few cents per day. The electricity pulses through the tape every couple of seconds - it's not a steady charge.

    As far as feeling the sting of the economy, I heat my house with wood, only leave the ranch about once a week, and don't have to feed my horses hay for 3- 5 months out of the year, so I consider myself very fortunate. I think most other rural folks, especially those who have a daily commute, are going to be hit harder than most.

  5. Love the fence!
    We're hoping to buy a place (hopefully next year this year it didn't pan out) :( and when we do I'm fairly sure it will have barbed wire (most places here do) but thankfully Pie agrees with me that we will need to change that ASAP.
    My dream fence is one that is visible in snow or grass, safe, affordable and fairly easy to maintain.

  6. Great fencing, Linda. I really like the safety factor over barbed wire. I can appreciate that, being terrified of barbed wire for horses, myself. The "chest impaling steel" posts kind of freak me out, I like those protective tops. My sister has those posts for the horse's pastures, they have a wire fencing w/a strand of electric wire along the top to prevent them from leaning over, except near the horse/human contact areas, such as near the gate, water troughs, grain buckets. The grain bucket hangs on a post but there is a protective cover on the post there. My sister's horses have figured out were there is no hot wire and have bent the fence over, but I think My Boy thinks the whole thing is electric! He's so sensitive, it terrifies him.

  7. I really like that fence. My father used an old fashioned electric fence with the top wire hot. I was zapped more than a few times. Might explain my thought processes.

    I have seen this type of fence before but didn't know much about it. Thanks for the tutorial.

  8. That is ONE awesome fence! It looks clean & tidy and I love that it's safe AND effective. I can't imagine that the barbed wire fences are any kind of treat to put up.

    And, THANK YOU!!! for not posting a picture of the poor horse that got tangled up in some of that wicked stuff. It was bad enough just reading about it.

  9. I'm sure that if I had the amount of land you do, I'd make the same choice. We got hit by lightning too when we first moved here and it fried my computer and lots of other things - We have flexible fencing, which has a very thin wire that runs inside the vinyl. That's what caught the lightning. Good thing that you can turn yours off so easily. Every thunderstorm - and we have many - I have to run around and pull out the plugs. Our surge protectors didn't do their job because the hit was so close and big.

  10. We have the Horse Guard tape as well, although our posts are the solid wood kind. The previous owner installed the Horse Guard here, and she had a breeding stallion on the property, so I trusted her judgment re: containment AND safety. I agree with you totally - it's great fencing and so easily maintained. In our back and around the arena we have a different kind, and it's been far more problematic.

    That said, I am considering split rail and no-climb fencing on the outer perimeter of our property in the near future, primarily because of dogs (ours) and donkeys.

    Re: electric costs - we have a solar charger and love it!

  11. Your fencing looks very SAFE and secure! And, like other families, we are cutting back where we can.

  12. You see more and more electric fence like yours around here now to contain all kinds of farm animals ... smart idea and good looking too.

  13. Your fence looks awesome! I love that you have toppers on each of the posts. I've never seen a little tester like you have- nice that it shows the charge level. And I agree about the On/Off switch. It made me laugh!

  14. That electric fence is cool. I have never seen one like that! Is that snake dead?

  15. There is really nothing that adds the finisheing touches to a place, like a nice, well-built, and safe fence, and you, Rancher Woman, have just shown us an excellent example of that!

    PS-I totally thought of Young Frankenstein when I saw that!!!

  16. I think that the Horseguard is a good choice too.Thats what we use with the same t-posts and it works really well.We like it too because we can always throw up another emergency paddock quickly when we need one. I'd recommend this fencing in a minute and would never ever consider using barbed wire anywhere near horses.

  17. Add me to the list of those who have Horseguard fencing. We use a different company for the covers on our t-posts and corner posts.

    Thing that sold me on Horseguard was about a week or so after we put it in (when we lived in Jersey), one of the geldings chased a mare into it. The fence stretched and stretched but kept shocking as it stretched. When the drama was over, the fence was stretched quite a bit, but the mare didn't have so much as a scratch on her.

    If the fence had been split rail (like all the boarding places had when we lived and boarded in PA), the mare would have been impaled something terrible. Probably would have killed her.

    Safety and ease of installation are what make Horseguard so great!

  18. Good primer on electric fences. I particularly like the t-post toppers. My cousin used to be a vet tech and she would tell horror stories of horses impaled on the bare tops of t-posts. I've been reluctant to use them with ours for that reason, but the topper may make me change my mind.


  19. You've so educational! I'd have never known horses got into so much trouble! Nice to know there are products out there other than that dreded barbed wire.

    Nice to know my favorite burros are secure safely.

    George & Alan Fan

  20. ok, now I see it. i think i've willed myself not to ever see a shake since that time at our fish camp...I love your posts about the animals!

  21. Wow... what a job it must've been putting up the fence. And it's so straight! ;)

    When I was a kid, my Dad had an electric fence for the sheep. All the kids in the neighborhood would try to touch the fence REAL FAST, thinking that if we touched it fast enough we wouldn't get shocked!

    We were shocked to learn that it didn't work! LOL

    Love your blog!

  22. Hey Linda,

    Do you think this fence would be effective for llamas?

    My llamas paddock has 5' horse fence and the llamas are standing on it to reach over and eat the tall grass on the other side. This is causing the fence to bend and stretch.

    I wonder if the electric tape will still zap through a llama's thick wool?


  23. Lisa, my guess is that it would work, since they'd probably touch it first with their nose, if they touched it at all. If you go to their website, you might find a testimonial or two from folks who've used it with llamas.

  24. Thanks Linda,
    I'll go see.

    I also want to make rotational pastures next summer, so they don't raze the grass down to dirt.

    I really liked how nice your Horse Guard looked while I was there, and it definetly keeps out all those cattle that walk past your property. :)


  25. I live in OK and also have fencing similar to Horseguard. I've had it up probably 3 years now and it's falling apart. The wind here is really an issue--if you don't twist the fencing (it's not as pretty as when it's nice and straight!)the wind will whip it so hard it snaps. Even at that, time, wind, and sun has just worn it out. This winter I'll be replacing it with regular hot wire...I've already got the T-post caps in place.

  26. Oh, please put me out of my misery. I can't find the snake and have been cruising all over your blog looking for it. Hard to explain, because I don't really want to look at any snake.

    By the way, I love spending time wandering through your blog but, hey, I'm a retired lady! I've got a schedule here!

  27. Clair, don't worry, the snake is dead...and hanging just to the left of the on/off switch.

  28. How did I miss it? That's waaay too much snake for a person like me with snake issues.

    Of course, I have horse issues, too. I used to want to be a cowgirl until I realized how high up I would have to be. Not a fan of extreme sports.

    Love your blog, especially where you say something like "if you don't blog it, it never happened."