Home » Best Fencing For Horses: Everything You Need to Know

Best Fencing For Horses: Everything You Need to Know

You can’t keep a horse on a leash like a dog.  At least, not full time.  Your horse needs a safe place at home to walk around and graze freely without wandering off.  That’s why most horse owner opt for a fenced in pasture.  Yet, choosing the best fencing for a horse pasture is overwhelming.  Fences aren’t cheap and require hard work to build. On top of that, there are so many options to choose from.  But don’t worry.  I’ve done most of the hard research for you.  

So, what is the best fencing for horses?

After confirming with several other equestrian owners, we all agree that classic wood rail fences are the best for horses.  Rigid wood fencing has several benefits.  They are strong, highly visible, last several decades, and are aesthetically pleasing.  When it comes to building a wood fence, you can easily get all the material from your local hardware store.

However, not everyone likes the idea of having a wood fence.  But don’t worry.  There are several excellent fencing options that may suit you and your horse’s needs better.

Here is a quick list of all the horse fencing discussed in this article.  Each will be covered in more detail below.

Best fencing for horses:

  • Wood rails
  • Steel pipe 
  • Vinyl (PVC)
  • Wire mesh
  • Electric fencing
  • Flex fencing

Choosing which type of fencing to erect on your property is a big deal.  Aesthetics, price, installation, terrain, functionality and durability all influence this decision.  Whether you are fencing a new pasture or replacing an old rotten fence, I’ll help you compare and assess all the options.

What kind of fencing is best for horses

When it comes to enclosing an area for your horse, safety and functionality should be at the top of your priority list.  Horses are extremely smart and are notorious for reaching under, through and over fences to nibble green grass on the other side.  This tendency leads to injuries on your horse and expensive damage to your fence.  Choosing the right type of fencing can lessen these issues.  

It’s also a good idea to consider other farm animals you plan on owing in the future.  Not all fences that work for horses will work for smaller animals like goats and sheep.  For efficiency sake, prepare for future needs by installing multipurpose fencing the first time around.

For this reason, wood fencing has always been my first choice.  It is far more customizable than any other type of fencing.  Wood also happens to be some of the strongest material available for fencing.  And if a board or section is damaged, the rest of the fence isn’t usually affected.  Plus, you can get the material quickly.

A basic wood rail fence also allows you to easily add electric fencing or mesh wire later if you need to keep smaller animals in or out.

Post and Rail Fences

Wood post and rail

Cost per foot: $1.30 – $1.88

Longevity: 20+ years

Fence Components: Wooden rail boards, Wooden posts, screws or nails

Wood fences, while they require a lot of work to build, last a long time and are strong.  

Make sure to use treated lumber to extend the life of the fence, both above and below ground.  

Corner posts should always be larger and sturdier.  You don’t want to skimp on the posts with a wooden fence because they are holding up the heavy wood railings. 

Most fence posts, both square and round, come 8 feet long.  Sinking the post 3 feet into the ground makes a sturdy 5 foot tall fence, perfect for containing horses.   

Three or four 2×6 boards for railings spaced evenly are sufficient and makes a nice looking fence.

Horses love to rub against fences so make sure to place the rail boards on the interior side.  That way your horse will be pushing the boards into the post and not pushing the boards off the post.

Pipe post and rail

Cost per foot: $7 – $10

Longevity: 20 – 30 years

Fence Components: Welded metal piping

Welded steel piping makes a strong and essentially maintenance free fence.  You will never have to wash, stain or paint it.  However, unless you know how to weld, you will have to pay someone to install this fencing for you which makes it one of the most expensive options.

It is important to make sure all pipe connections are completely welded and smooth.  Sharp metal edges can cut you and your horse.  Some manufacturers offer coated piping options which help delay rust and corrosion.   

Pipe fences are typically the tallest type of horse fencing.  The small pipes and greater spacing between rails requires additional height to discourage your horse from trying to get out. 

Vinyl or PVC post and rail

Cost per foot: $2 – $3

Longevity: 10 – 15 years

Fence Components: Wooden posts, Vinyl post covers, Vinyl rail boards, Fence post caps

Vinyl fencing gives you the classic rail fence look without the wear and tear of wood.  And you’ll never need to paint or stain it!  Pick from several colors including white, brown and black.  The plastic material doesn’t deteriorate or fade like wood.  Vinyl fences will get dirty but a pressure washer easily restores the original finish.      

Vinyl fencing is considered safer than wood because it doesn’t create sharp splinters when broken.  However, since vinyl railings are hollow, your horse could easily push hard enough to pop them off the posts and get out.  Running a single strand of electric wire along the inside of this fencing will prevent that issue.  

Wire Fences

Cost per foot: $1.50 – $3.00

Longevity: 30+ years

Fence Components: Wooden posts, Metal posts, Wire mesh, U nails or staples

If you can’t justify the amount of work to install a wood, pipe or vinyl fence, consider using wire mesh with wood or metal posts.  You can purchase woven or welded mesh.  Both are strong and but make sure if you choose woven mesh that the wire knots are firmly crimped and smooth on the side that your horse is exposed to. 

Typical mesh spacing is 2” x 4” which is small enough to prevent horses from stepping through or “climbing” it.  Wire mesh fences minimize injury because they flex when your horse pushes into them.  Although, mesh fences that take a lot of abuse end up looking pretty shabby.  If pushed on too hard the wire will stay bent.  

Regular maintenance and tightening is required to keep this fence looking good over the years.  A single strand of electric wire can help deter horses from stretching this type of fence.  Incorporating a top wood rail will help keep the mesh tight and more secure.  

Electric Fences

Cost per foot: $0.03 – $0.30

Longevity: 15+ years

Fence Components: Electric wire or tape, Fence insulators, Fence posts, Fence charger

Electric fencing can be used alone or in conjunction with other types of fencing.  There are several types of electric wires including polyrope, smooth wire and poly tape. ElectroBraid is easy to install and a popular choice for electric pasture fencing. 

Distance, load strength, number of strands and, of course, price will determine which wire style will work best for you.  If you want to use solely electric fencing, you will need at least three vertically spaced strands and the wider the strands the better.  Larger tape or rope is stronger and more visible.  

If you want to dissuade leaning or nibbling on other types of fencing, a single wire attached to an existing fence is usually sufficient.

The biggest issue with electric fencing is the power source.  If your pasture is close to your house or barn, running power might be simple.  Solar and battery power options are available but typically don’t deliver as big of a shock.  Most horses learn after a zap or two to stay away from the electric fence.  However, some will always push the boundaries and if your solar or battery powered fence turns off, you could have an escapee.  

Flex Fencing

Cost per foot: $1.02 – $1.25

Longevity: 20+ years

Fence Components: Wood posts, Flex fence, Flex fence brackets, Splice and End buckles, End tensioners

System Equine offers Flex Fencing which is a vinyl coated high tensile steel wire.  This fence is extremely strong, highly visible, and can be non-electric or electrified.  Flex Fencing is safe because the wire is enclosed inside a 4” or 5” band of polymer.  If your horse runs into the fence, it will flex without cutting him.

Sturdy wood posts are required to erect this fence but rail width, number of rails, color and electrification choices allow you full customization.  Flex Fencing is sold in 330 feet or 660 feet lengths but can be spliced together with special buckles.  Just remember, if a rail does break, that entire section will sage.  You will have to splice in a new rail and retighten the entire length. 

All in all, this is a very versatile, safe and low maintenance horse fencing option that also looks nice.

How high should a horse fence be

A horse fence should be 4 to 6 feet high to discourage them from leaning over or jumping out.  Allowing your horse to hang his head over can encourage fence pushing as he tries try to reach grass or treats.  Taller breeds and draft horses require at least 6 foot fences.  

A standard fence post is 8 feet long, so sinking it 3 feet into the ground will leave 5 feet above ground to work with.  The heavier the post, the deeper it needs to sit in the ground.  Conveniently, wire mesh comes in 4 ft, 5 ft, and 6 ft heights.  

How much does it cost to build a horse fence

I listed the price per foot for each type of fencing above but let’s consolidate it all into one chart so you can quickly compare.  Let’s also use an example to see what it would actually cost.   

Fence TypePrice Per FootPrice to Fence 1/4 Acre (416 ft)
Wood$1.30 – $1.88$1,622 –  $2,346
Metal Pipe$7 – $10$8,736 – 12,480
Vinyl or PVC$2.00 – $3.00$2,496 – $3,744
Wire Mesh + Top Rail$1.50 – $3.00$1,164 – $1,788
Electric$0.03 – $0.30$38 – $375
Flex Fencing$1.02 – $1.25$1,272 – $1,560

And don’t forget to include the cost of fence posts!  Spaced 8 feet apart, this same square quarter acre pasture will require 53 posts.  Remember, you can incorporate different sizes and styles of posts but always use large, strong posts on the corners. 

Post TypePrice Per PostPrice to Fence 1/4 Acre (416 ft)
8 ft, 4×4 treated$13 – $16$689 – $848
8 ft, 4×6 treated$22 – $30$1,166 – $1,590
8 ft, 4” round$12$636
8 ft, 5” round$18$954
8 ft, 6” round$22$1,166
Metal T-Posts$4 – $8$212 – $424

So as you can see, to build a 3 railing fence around 1/4 acre, regardless of material type, it will on average cost between $1,600 and $4,500.  This includes all the railing material and posts.  An electric fence is by far the cheapest option where metal piping will cost you the most.    

Are horses hard on fences

Horses are hard on fences, especially if you skimp on annual maintenance.  Wood fences provide solid surfaces for chewing and cribbing.  Wire mesh gets bent and loose from leaning and scratching.  A crazy horse can run into and destroy any type of fence simply because they are so large.

The best way to prevent fence damage is to discourage your horse from ever touching it.  Simply adding one or two strands of electric tape on the inside of the fence will establish an appropriate boundary and discourage fence damage.

What type of fencing should never be used for horses

Wire fencing dates back to the cowboy days and is by far the most inexpensive and best choice for covering long distances and hilly terrain.  However, high tensile and barbed wire should not be used as a primary fence for horses.  

Barbed wire is designed for controlling thick skinned cattle.  Horses have much thinner hides and can be severely injured by the barbs.  Especially, if they get caught in the fence and try to free themselves.  Tight wire fences can wreck havoc on panicking horses.

Smooth wire is the exact same as barded wire fencing except without the barbs.  This wire won’t poke your horse but it can still cut if they stick their head or legs through and then quickly jerk back.  Low visibility and potential for injuries makes this fencing not ideal for horses.

High tensile wire is also barb free but it is stretched so tight that it can cut flesh if quickly swiped along it.  Horses can also get their legs stuck between the wires and in the process of trying to get free, severely injure themselves.

And speaking of getting their legs caught, stay away from hog wire or cattle panels that have square openings larger than 3 inches.  Horses can kick or push their hooves through the holes.  Again, this usually causes panic and results in injury.    

Conclusion

Horses are curious animals and are prone to getting in trouble.  They can hurt themselves in a seemingly empty pasture.  Choose a fence option that provides the safest yet strongest containment, requires minimal maintenance and is cost effective for your space.  Aesthetics also plays a small role so pick a fence that compliments your property.  All of the fencing options I mentioned above look very nice when installed correctly and are properly maintained.