ZAP! Electric fencing for horses!


Whatever type of primary fencing you choose for your horses, you may want to consider adding some hot wire (aka electric fencing) to their paddocks, runs, turnouts, pastures, and really any fence that your horse comes into contact with.


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  • Why on earth would you want to do this? For a lot of reasons that can be summarized by one phrase – so your horse does not kill itself. Which we know, they love to attempt. Usually just before a bit event or show or something important.


  • Hotwire, or electric fencing, can also prevent horses from injuring each other over a fence.


electric fence warning sign


A lot of you out there will be gasping in horror at this suggestion, and I’ll tell you a few things about electric fencing that will hopefully shed some light on why it may be a good idea for your farm.


  • It delivers a pretty strong static shock-like feeling. I have, through the gift of clumsy genetics, been blessed with an uncanny ability to shock myself a zillion times over. I have received static shocks from taking off a wool blanket that hurt more than a zap from the electric fence.


  • Numbers are deceiving. You may read that electric fencing can deliver 9,000 volts. You may be surprised to know that a static shock in the winter can deliver 30,000 volts.


  • It takes 2,000 volts just to make it through 1 millimeter of skin. Add to that a hair coat, and you are looking at something like 4,000 volts before anything even registers in your beast. This tiny zap is enough to say to your horse “don’t touch me again”.


  • Horses are smart. When it comes to electric fencing. Both of my horses have been “zapped”, and now every single fence they encounter is hot to them, even if it’s not actually hot. Even if it doesn’t even have electric fencing attached. Maybe your horse will only get “zapped” once or twice before that entire fence, and every other fence, is OFF LIMITS.


  • Horses are not smart. When it comes to non-electric fencing. I have seen, in no particular order, the following horse/fence incidences: broken posts, broken rails, stuck necks, cast legs, stuck hooves, stuck legs, giant splinters, tails stuck, fighting over fences, and shoes/halters/blankets ripped off and tangled. I have also seen the extremely dangerous panic that follows when a horse gets stuck. This is when deadly accidents happen. Not to mention a cribbing horse destroying your fence one chew at a time!


I’m not saying electric fencing will prevent all horse/fence accidents, I’m saying they will be so unlikely, you will sleep better at night, and save yourself some vet bills and fence repair chores.


  • Here’s what I don’t like to see – electric wire, tape, or rope being the ONLY type of fencing. While temporary and convenient and cheap and easy, it’s not as solid and mentally deterring as a wood/pvc/stone/etc. fence with a line or two on the top and inside.


  • You have options. It comes in wire, which is traditional and a bit harder to see for us humans. Horses just know it’s there. It comes in rope, which looks just like a normal non-electrified rope. It comes in tape, which is wide and super easy to see. Both rope and tape come in colors, but usually just white or yellow, not cool colors like navy and purple and other barn logo colors.


  • You can also use the sun as a power source. Handy and green! Point the panels towards true south in the northern hemisphere and true north in the southern hemisphere for maximum exposure to the sun. Most power sources have a switch so that you can turn off the fence to work on it.


solar panel for electric fence


How does electric fencing work?


  • Electric fencing is a circuit – with your horse (or you) being the last ingredient to complete the circuit. An electric pulse is pumped through the wire/rope/tape from the control box (power source) at regular intervals.


  • There is also a wire/rope/tape that goes from the control box into the ground several feet. When you or your horse contacts the wire, the circuit from wire to box to ground to horse to wire is completed and “zap”.


ground to electric fence

The electric fence system should be grounded. Literally, into the ground.


  • The wires/tape, rope are secured to the fence with insulators. These are plastic gizmos that are secured to the primary fence and are usually an inch or more long so that the wire does not contact the primary fence. The main thing to remember here is to match your insulator type with the type of wire/rope/tape you are using.



very thin electric fencing

An example of super-thin electric fencing.


electric rope around a pole

An example of electric rope – easier for the clumsy humans to see, and therefore avoid.


Pretty simple! It certainly doesn’t work for all situations, but it might be helpful.


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