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Horse in an paddock with electric fence

Electric fencing is one of the most cost-efficient and flexible ways to fence horses. The fencing is both easily installed but yet totally portable, making it possible to change grazing and vary paddock sizes with ease, perfect to respond to the grazing needs of different horses and ponies. Electric fencing is also very economical and costs considerably less per metre than the post and rail alternative and it can also be installed by any horse owner. What’s not to like?

How Does Electric Fencing Work?

Ground together with an energiser form an open circuit and the horse makes the system work by completing the loop & getting a shock.

Electric tape or electric rope is connected to form a line using either fibreglass or plastic electric fence posts. These posts have special attachments for the tape or rope and the facility to tighten the line with tensioners. They also have insulators which ensure that there is no leakage of the electric current to earth. It makes the whole system more robust if you drive in a wooden post when you reach a corner or turn but that will then have to be levered out if you later want to remove the whole fencing run. However, if your fencing is intended to be semi-permanent or permanent, then wooden corner posts are a great addition giving strength and security.

Paddocks are created by dividing areas up with the tape and can be inter-connected using electric gates, essentially the same rope or tape but with insulated handles into a closing device. Options for tape or rope vary from tubular to flat and are available in different widths. It has always been said that horses do not see white very well so it is surprising that so much electric tape is white. Green is also available and in different widths which should make it more visible to the horse, however, horses do dislike white so there is some element of deterrent with white tape or rope. The electric rope or tape contains tiny strands of metal through which the current passes.

The electric current can be provided by either a battery, as simple as a car battery or straight from the mains. An energiser is used to create a high voltage low current pulse which is important as this means that the current is not continuous. The pulse is usually about every second. 

How to Choose the Best Electric Fence Energiser for Horses?

The first thing you need to do is calculate the length of run you are seeking to electrify. Remember that you will have more than one strand of tape so if your run is 900 metres in total then you should plan for an energiser to support 1,800 metres if your fence is two strand and 2,700 metres if it is three strands. The Joules rating (and no, we are not talking about fashion here) determines the length of fence that can be electrified; the higher the Joules rating the longer the fence that can be electrified and the greater the shock to the animal. There are standard guides and charts which can tell you how much length you will need for different sizes of field based on acreage but ideally, if you can borrow a measuring wheel then you can calculate the distance exactly.

You will also need to consider your original energy source as this can make a difference to the type of energiser you need to purchase. So are you using mains power, battery or solar?

What Voltage?

The minimum recommended voltage to safely contain horses is 3,000 volts and whichever system you opt for, it should be able to deliver this level of output on a continuous basis. You can safely test the voltage by using an electric fence tester.

Solar Power

A solar-powered energiser is a great way to help yourself to free energy and contrary to popular belief, they don’t need sunshine to work, just daylight. Some people team a solar panel with a car battery and use the panel to charge the battery. Some solar panel energisers come with a battery charger for the winter months.

Mains Energisers

The joy with a mains energiser is that you never have to worry about charging a battery again as the power is always there and constant. And this is the cheapest way to power your fence too. Just connect to the energy source and that’s it. Because of their reliability and efficiency - mains energisers have a greater power resource to draw from - they can be the answer to wayward escape artists and they are also useful in areas where there is predation from any undergrowth.

Battery Energisers

Portable, rechargeable and available to work with 6, 9 or 12-volt batteries, a battery energiser makes the whole process of setting up an electric fence run as easy as pie.

How to Install Electric Fencing for Horses

Having calculated the length of run and how many strands you want to use – most people use two – you will need to determine the correct height for your horses and ponies. The parameters range from 100-150 cm depending on many factors, such as: the landscape, height of the horse, jumping capabilities, character of the horse, etc. The taller the electric fence post is - the better. Always make sure the lowest strand of tape or rope is not too close to the ground as this can entrap horses.

A full fence kit will contain the following:
  • Tape or rope for a specified distance
  • Battery solar or mains power kit
  • Fence posts with insulators
  • Tape connectors which make both lines live
  • Insulated gate handles
  • Earth rod
  • Electric fence testing kit

Safety Tips

Always show your horse the electric fence on the first occasion that you use it.
If you have a new or unknown horse then treat the horse as if it has never seen electric fencing before and proceed with caution.

Always have the fence on when the horses are out; once horses learn that the fence is not electrified, they will not respect it and will try and push through it. This can have serious consequences if they become entangled in it, even more so if they push through on the one day that you have remembered to switch it on.

If you use electric fencing in the winter months then the horse may not feel the current through his rug, for this reason, many people use it for summer grazing if their horses are rugged during the winter months.

Try to ensure that nothing interferes with the electric fence run such as overhanging branches or plants, this can bleed out the current and considerably reduce the effectiveness of the fence which in turn, will impact on safety.

Try and always keep the energiser as close as possible to the stables or other buildings. They are a popular target for thieves and, apart from the cost and inconvenience of replacing it, your horses will be left without any form of secure fencing.

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