Electric fencing for horses – everything you need for a temporary setup or strip-grazing

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  • Electric fencing for horses is typically used for temporary fencing, strip grazing or to protect existing fencing, which is a more permanent fixture. If you’re setting up electric fencing for the first time, read on to find out what you’ll need…

    How does electric fencing work?

    An energiser unit converts power high voltage split-second pulses that are emitted once every one or two seconds. If your horse touches the the wire that carries the pulse, the current will pass through him to the ground and he’ll receive a shock. Horses quickly learn to stay away from the fence and it becomes a physical and psychological boundary.

    What do I need?

    An electric fence is made up of four essential components…

    1. An energiser converts power from the mains or a battery into high voltage pulses that are emitted once every one or two seconds.
    2. The conducting tape makes up the actual barrier and carries the current along the fence. If your horse touches the the wire that carries the pulse, the current will pass through him to the ground and he’ll receive a shock.
    3. Insulation stops the the power being lost to the earth – if your tape is touching anything other than the posts or insulators, such as a tree, the fence will lose power.
    4. An earth stake that takes the current back to the energiser.

    What to consider when buying temporary electric fencing for horses

    electric fencing starter kit

    Starter kits

    If you’re setting up your fencing from scratch, an electric fencing starter kit could be just what you need. They usually include an energiser, batteries, fence posts and tape, but may also include conductors, ring insulators, a gate handle or a warning sign.

    electric fencing for horses energiser


    The energiser is the heart of the fencing system and the best option for you depends on the power supply, output required and fence length.

    9v battery energisers are a popular choice for strip-grazing and temporary fencing as they are very portable. They are powered by dry-cell 9v disposable batteries, so you will need to consider the cost of replacing them as they run out.

    12v battery energisers are ideal for semi-permanent electric fences or where no mains power is available. These are powered by a rechargeable 12v battery and are able to power longer fences at a higher voltage. You could use a car battery, but a purpose-designed leisure battery is designed to give a steady output over time, while a car battery will dwindle quite quickly. The higher the Ah of the battery, the longer you can leave it between recharges.

    Solar-powered energisers use energy from the sun to power your fencing setup. They tend to have a higher initial cost but are cheaper in the long run.

    plastic fencing posts


    Plastic posts are the most popular for temporary electric fencing for horses – especially for strip grazing – because they’re cheap, lightweight and easy to set up and move. But choosing the right type for you could save you money and hassle in the future. You should consider the…

    • height – for some horses, the visual effect of a 3ft post with a couple of lines of tape is enough to command their respect. However, in general, the taller your fence the better – especially if you’re enclosing larger or more determined horses – so 4ft6in fence posts or 5ft fence posts are likely to be a better choice.
    • footplate – some posts have a single footplate and if this snaps, it can be hard to replant the post again, while others have a double footplate and some have a stirrup, which is typically more sturdy.
    • colour – posts come in a variety of colours (most commonly white, green or black, but you can also get pink fence posts). Green is the least lurid and can blend into the surroundings more easily, while some people believe that horses are most respectful of a white fence. Ultimately it’s down to your preference or that of the landowner.

    electric fencing tape for horses


    Horses need to be able to see your fence for it to act as a deterrent, so the thinnest twines are not suitable. The most popular options are tape and rope. Electric fence tape is a great choice for plastic posts. It is subject to increased wear in windy conditions, so it’s best not to choose a tape that’s too wide – 20mm tape is suitable for most situations and the most common choice with plastic posts.
    Electric fencing rope is visible, very strong and less prone to becoming caught in the wind. It comes in a variety of specifications and strengths – polyropes with stainless steel conductors are ideal for short/medium fence lines, while ropes containing tinned copper conducting lines are better for longer fencing and higher powered energisers. Rope is most commonly used in conjunction with wooden posts.

    electric fencing connector


    It’s best to avoid cutting your tape where possible. If you need to connect two lines of fencing tape together, you should use tape connectors to ensure good conduction.

    electric fencing insulators


    Insulators direct your conducting tape or rope and are vital to an efficient electric fence. They’re essential if you have wooden posts as wood is not a good insulator like plastic is. If your fence isn’t insulated properly, the power will leak into the earth and your horse will learn there is no need to respect the fence.

    Ring insulators are the best option if you’re using polyrope. They can be used to direct the rope to run above the fence, which prevents cribbing and chewing, or just inside the fence to prevent horses from scratching or leaning on the fencing. You can also get distance insulators, which are longer, that keep your horses further away from the fencing. Tape insulators are flatter to accommodate the shape of the tape, while combination insulators can be used for rope or tape.

    electric fencing handle


    Handles are essential for creating safe gateways to the field. They allow the current to pass through and complete the circuit while the gateway is closed, while giving you something safe to hold when you need access.

    electric fencing warning signs

    Warning signs

    If your field has a public footpath running through it or alongside, it’s worth hanging some warning signs on your fencing.

    electric fencing tester

    Fence testers

    Fence testers allow you to check the voltage of your fence to make sure everything is working correctly.

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