horse at fence

(First appeared in the April, 2017 issue of The Equiery)

For this year’s Farm Fix-Up issue, we surveyed our readers to learn more about their fences. No surprise, more of our readers have board fencing than any other kind. Did you know that in other parts of the country, dark board fencing is known as “Maryland fence?” Kentucky is known for its white board fences, and we are known for our dark board fencing (once upon a time, they were creosoted; these days, they are left to age naturally, or are oiled or painted).

What kinds of fencing do our readers have?
– 45% have three- or four-board fencing (almost equally divided)
– 30% have some sort of no-climb/mesh fencing (most topped with a board)
– 30% rely on electrified fencing (coated wire, ribbons, ropes, tapes, braids, etc.)
– Remainders were spread pretty evenly between split rail, Centaur, vinyl-covered boards, and high tensile, sometimes augmented with hot wire.

We know this number adds up to more than 100%; that is because about 35% of our participants had a mix of fence types on their property. The reasons for mixed fencing were varied and included
– transitioning in phases to a new type of fencing
– varying needs for different pastures, livestock or types or ages of horses
– presentation fencing along roads, lower-cost fencing in the back
– blending to augment primary fencing (e.g., running an electric strand across a top board)

The Power of Choice
About 90% of our respondents selected their fencing; for the remaining 10%, the fencing was already installed on the property when they acquired it. For that 10%, it was about evenly split as to whether they liked it or not. We are not going to claim that this represents the actual ratio of farm owners, just those who responded. It could be that people who are proud of and pleased with their choices were more likely to respond.

Of those respondents who selected their fencing, about a 97% of them were thrilled with their choices and would do it all over again.

Of those who chose their fencing (as opposed to living with what was already there), 60% had the fencing professionally installed, while 35% installed it themselves. The remainder did a combination (e.g., had a professional install the posts, with the owner installing the boards, wire or tape).

Board Fencing: Love it or Hate it
Those who love board fencing, love it. Those who don’t, don’t! Comments from those who love it say that they wouldn’t have anything else, it is the gold standard, it is the safest, it is the lowest maintenance, and it is the best looking. Those who hate it usually cite maintenance as the reason! Whaaaaa? It is the best because it is low maintenance, or it is the worst because it is the highest maintenance? How can that be? Looking more closely at the responses, the majority of the people who are unhappy with it installed it themselves. There may be more similarities (such as treated vs. untreated, aged vs. green), but our survey did not drill down that deep. Hemlock boards received a thumbs-down; oak boards were clearly the winner.

Electric – Augmenting
Fifty percent of the farm owners with board fencing also used electric. Most used it to protect the fence from the horses (either to protect the top board from cribbers/chewers, to keep horses from leaning on the posts, or to prevent fighting over shared fence lines). Some used portable electric to divide the pastures into smaller paddocks for rotation.

Electric – Primary
For those farm owners who used some type of electric as their primary fencing, the main reason was because of its affordability, and the secondary reason was its flexibility. Of those who installed their own fencing, it was predominantly some version of electric.

Wish List
If our readers were to change fencing, the most popular type cited was diamond mesh with top board, and the most commonly cited reason was that it not only keeps horses in, but keeps other animals out.

Comments that made us laugh
Describe your fencing: “HAHAHAHA! Rickety stuff that was there when I moved in. However, with his training, [my horse] understands barriers and does not test or try to cross weak or broken spots. He will stay behind baling twine!” (Lisa Boch, Pasadena)

“Wire mesh fencing is the safest choice for my horses and their particular issues, such as a willingness to shove themselves between the boards in three-board fencing.” (Nicole Duarte, formerly of Prince George’s County)

Are you satisfied with this fencing? “Yes. If I were better at driving the tractor and had never caught the wire while mowing or never backed into it with the disc harrow, I would be even more satisfied.” (Wendy Takacs, Cotswold Spring Farm, Mt. Airy, with mesh with board)

Would you recommend the company that installed your fencing? Yes.

Would you share their name? They are in jail for fraud.

Tell us more!
Karen Kehoe (Golden Ray Farm in White Hall) has been replacing the board fencing on her property with five-strand coated wire, with the top, middle and bottom wires hot, “because it is cost effective, horse safe and low maintenance.” She also notes that having the electric fence “eliminates the need for aisleways, thereby increasing pastures and decreasing maintenance/grass-cutting.”

“We have split rail, a mix of two-, three- and four-rail sections. We love it. We installed all 5,000 feet of it ourselves. Easy to install, easy to fix, affordable. The only problem has been that the new replacement rails are longer than the original ones, so we have to trim them down,” came from Mary and Walter Johnston, Windfall Farm (Woodstock)

Arlene Atkins (Sweetwater Bluff in Middletown) has a combination of high tensile, coated high tensile, all hot, with a sight rail, and some board fencing. “We installed all of our fencing and LOVE it! No problems; maintenance is just hammering staples periodically.”

“We had three-board fencing installed, as it is the strongest fence for the OTTBs to run into the first time they are turned out, and my Arabians and Appaloosas don’t respect electric tape,” said Laura Goddard, Mountain View Polo (Charlestown, WV).

Bob Vechery (Checkmate Farm in Woodbine) chose four strands of electric 2” wide web on pressure-treated posts because it was budget-friendly, easy to self-install and provides good security. He installed it 20 years ago and says it lasted longer than he had anticipated and has withstood everything.

Melinda Propps (Merriwood Farm just over the line in PA) also uses wide electrified tape which, like Bob Vechery, she installed herself. “I like the visibility, the ease of installation and the ability to electrify. Downside: in very windy situations it will pull out of or break the connectors.

Katie Phalen (Crossfox Farm in Clarksville) has a combination of fencing, which was installed about 16 years ago: three-board as perimeter and cross-fencing, woven high tensile along the treeline. “I’ve just signed a contract to have the same company replace all the three-board. Over 90% of the posts are still in good shape at this point, but I am replacing the whole thing to avoid 20-year-old posts starting to go in a few years while the boards are still good. I am having all the hemlock boards replaced with oak, hoping it is more durable. I can’t say enough good things about ProFence. They were absolutely wonderful in 2001/2002 and have been nothing but helpful since. They can’t fit me in until mid-April, but so it goes.”

Nicole Duarte, now living in North Carolina, was originally going to use an electric braided rope type of fencing, until she found out that a neighbor had a horse killed by loose dogs. So she installed no-climb wire mesh fencing, and even covered the gates with it. “I installed it myself; I used my car and a few well-placed trees to stretch the wire. It’s been durable even though the horses like to scratch against it. My dressage mare jumped one five-foot section of the fence…she caught the top of the fence…I was convinced I was about to see her get tangled in the wire or break her neck in a horrible rotational fall. Very luckily, the fence had enough give that her hoof didn’t get caught and she landed like she jumps five feet every day. The fencing does warp and can lose its stretch, but it’s easy to bend it or stretch it back into shape.

Q. Do you use a pull-behind fence line trimmer?
A. Don’t know what it is.
A. “I have no experience with a pulled-behind fence trimmer. I’d probably cut off the posts.”
A. (Responding for partner): No, but she wishes she did; apparently she broke her arm while using a standard weed eater.
Pull- or tow-behind fence line trimmers are becoming increasingly popular as a way to maintain fence lines and reduce labor costs (or one’s own labor, in many cases). Most of our readers don’t have them, relying instead on a mixture of the following tried and true methods: mowing tight; walking with a weed whacker; spraying with Roundup™; goats or other livestock. Many of our readers have never heard of the trimmers.

Makers of the pull-behind fence line trimmers tend to be smaller companies developing attachments for niche markets and have product names such as Fence Runner, Wright FenceMower, and Perfect Van Wamel.

One such company is DR Power Equipment, which manufactures the PTO-powered DR Mower. This company frequently has “free” six-month trials; if you don’t like it, return it and they will refund all but the shipping cost. Your publisher took them up on their offer, and a DR 3-point hitch model DR Mower-Trimmer was delivered last summer – and returned this winter, as the terrain was just too hilly and uneven for this product. However, the company was true to its word, with excellent customer service.
Those that have ‘em, love ‘em.

Bob Vechery swears by his Swisher Postmaster, which he pulls with an International Cub tractor over the gently rolling terrain of his Checkmate Farm in Howard County: “I don’t know what I would do without it. It used to take me three hours with a weed-eater, and I was shot; the Swisher does it in less than an hour and all I have to do is sit. The hardest thing is pull-starting the engine, which is pretty easy most of the time.”

Paul Schopf (Dressage at Sundown in Laytonsville) has a DR Power three-point hitch model, which he pulls with an old kubota 1750 to trim under his four-board fencing on fairly level terrain, and he loves it!

“It is sturdy, well built, and runs very well. They have good parts availability (the mow-ball wears because it is in contact with the ground, the trimmer line is very heavy and lasts a long time, but not when you hit something metal).

“I can do a mile of fence in about an hour or less, and so I mow often (three-four times per year). At first, the multiflora roses and other brambles that grow up under neglected fences played havoc with the trimmer line, and replacing it was getting a little tedious, but after the first few passes the first year, you find that it is like weed-eating grass, and I can go a long time before needing to change the line.

“However, I would not recommend this to anyone who has to deal with hillsides. If you extend a straight line from beneath the two rear tires, the ground where you need to trim should be on that line. They advertise that you can adjust the mower or let it “float,” but I have been unable to get this to work reliably.

“There are a few design flaws. The PTO shaft goes over a horizontal bar on the trimmer, which means that if you lift the unit up using the three-point hitch, you can damage the PTO shaft before the head gets very far off the ground.”

tree through fenceDiane Culp (Goose Chase Farm in Adamstown) chose Cameo PVC posts with poly wire because it was easy to self-install and can be moved around if necessary. “We have adjusted it around fallen trees or unwanted plants. If the electric is off, the horses will push against it, but that is all they’ve done. One advantage is that once a very large tree fell across the fence but it stretched and held. We sawed a slice through the tree, allowed the wire to pop back into place through the slice and viola! Instant fix until a backhoe could get the tree parts. The sellers are very helpful with measuring or installation or maintenance questions.

endura soft fenceArt Thacher (Way Back Farm in Westminster) had ProFence install the posts, and then he installed the fencing: “I use Endura Soft (like ElectroBraid but a little less expensive): four lines supported by conventional wooden fence posts with screwed-in insulators on the pasture side. Each line is interwoven with six fine tinned copper strands, energized by a fence charger. Each line is terminated at both ends with a strong P spring that keeps it taut but allows some give if something falls on or against the fence. The lines are a soft but durable rope-like product, not under high tension and will not cut a horse like wire will. This photo was taken after the ice storm of 2014. The Endura Soft was pushed down to the ground in several places, but nothing broke. After cutting the branches off the fence lines with a chainsaw, they returned to their normal position, although one required minor retightening at the P spring. One of the reasons why I prefer this to wood!”

And The Winners Are!
Our Readers Recommendations

• J Mar Fencing, LLC (no-climb wire with top board)
• ProFence* (four-board)
• A-1 Fencing (four-board)
• Maryland Horse Fence (three-board)
• SRP Fencing (five-strand coated wire)
• Cornerstone (three-board)
• I don’t remember; it was 16 years ago! (Diamond Mesh)
• Pro-Fence* (mostly three-board, some woven high tensile)
• Miller’s Post Driving Company (four-board painted white)
• ProFence* (no-climb mesh with top board)
• Sunnyburn Fencing (five-strand coated wire)
• PH Drayer* (some three-board, some hot wire)
• Farm & Equine Services* (some four-board; some vinyl-coated wire, four strands, top and bottom hot)
• Quality Fence (some four-board; some four-strand high tensile)
• Centaur (Centaur)
• ProFence* (installed posts)

* Denotes fencing companies advertising in the April, 2017 issue

© The Equiery, 2017