Q: The boundary around my turnout area is barbed wire and wooden posts. A friend has suggestedI take this down and put up post-and-rail fencing, but I cannot afford this at the moment. I’ve seen other horses’ fields with barbed wire boundaries, and I’ve never had any accidents in 10 years of owning my fields. Should I change to a safer alternative and, if so, what would be cheaper than post-and-rail fencing?

Gavin Strathern, a freelance agricultural contractor and specialist replies: Your friend is correct to say that barbed wire is not the ideal fencing system in which to keep horses, and post-and-rail fencing is safer. Having said that, if your horses have sensible temperaments and have been turned out in the field for 10 years with no problems, I see no reason to panic.

To discourage your horses from going near the fencing, ensure that there is always adequate grazing and water available.

Be aware of any changes made to the other side of your boundary that may attract the horses towards the fence, such as new horses being turned out in the neighbouring field.

If the barbed wire concerns you, the cheapest option is to run an electric fence around your boundary. Run one fencing tape along the top of the fence and another about two feet from the ground. This will discourage your horses from leaning over the fence or pushing underneath to reach the neighbour’s grass. An electric fencing kit costs about £150.

Remember that electric fencing requires maintenance. If the fencing is powered from a battery, it is vital that it is charged regularly and kept in working order. Alternatively, you could invest in a solar-powered unit, or a unit that is run from the mains, which means it maintains a constant charge. You also need to ensure that foliage doesnot touch the electric fencing – this will earth the charge, making the fencing less effective.

If all this appears too onerous, the cheapest replacement fence is stock wire with a single top-rail. This fencing requires a post about every 9ft. The post must be driven into the ground to a depth of 18-20in and the stock wire must be kept very taut.

  • Gavin Strathern is a freelance agricultural contractor and specialist in pasture management.
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