FENCING FOR HORSES
Fences are necessary to safely confine horses yet provide them with the opportunity to exercise and graze. Because of the natural flight response of horses tend to injure themselves in fences more than most other livestock. Painted rail fences are not only beautiful to humans, they are highly visible to horses. They appear to a horse as a solid barrier that they are less likely to challenge or run into. When a horse does contact a rail fence, it is less likely to get a hoof hung in it or cut itself on sharp wire ends as might be the case with many standard farm wire fences.
The heights of fences used for other livestock do not necessarily apply to horse fences because they are more athletic and more likely to jump a fence than to go through or under it when spooked. The minimum recommended height for perimeter pasture fences for horses is 5 feet (60 inches). This height will deter most horses from attempting to jump and will also reduce the temptation for people to reach over the fence to pet or feed horses.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The kinds of fences commonly used for horses include rail (plank or PVC), various forms of galvanized and vinyl coated wire and combinations of these. Whatever the fence is made of, it needs to be highly visible, resistant to damage by horses, durable, attractive and safe for contact by horses.
Plank or rail fences are popular because they are attractive, highly visible and relatively safe. This category includes fences made from treated and/or painted wooden planks nailed or screwed to posts, split rails with rounded ends that slide into holes in posts. If a horse runs into a rail or plank fence, the fence is not likely to cause physical harm unless the collision is hard enough to break the rail. A horse is also less likely to get a hoof hung in a rail fence.
Mesh wire fences are strong, durable and considered one of the safest fences for horses. They are less expensive than most rail fences but more expensive than conventional farm woven fences with 4- to 6-inch openings used for cattle and other livestock. The openings in these fences are small enough to prevent hooves being caught in them. They also have no exposed sharp wire ends to cut the animal's skin.
Never use barbed wire for any part of your horse fence unless you don't care about you horses being cut and wind up with terrible scars all over their bodies or winding up dead from blood loss.