Fencing for Horses: Material Considerations for First-Time Owners

If you have taken the plunge into the world of horsemanship, getting the right infrastructure for keeping your horse is a big part of providing the right care and training. While horses do need shelter and storage rooms for grain and tack, the basics of keeping a horse start with a fence.

You have many options for horse fencing, but there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re choosing a fencing material. Several different materials make suitable fences for horses, but horse owners must also avoid common materials that aren’t appropriate for fencing in a horse.

Further, all of the available materials have pros and cons. Some materials are more costly while others are more affordable. Some are safer while others require more maintenance. Here are some of the most common fencing materials that horse owners should be educated about.

Wood Rail

What is more picturesque than a wooden fence with three sturdy cross rails? It’s possibly the most iconic horse fence, and wood is definitely the most traditional. If you’re looking for a rustic or classic finish for your property, wood is the way to go.

However, you should be aware that wooden fencing does come with a cost. It’s usually the most expensive to purchase, with quality woods costing several dollars per linear foot. Wooden fencing requires constant maintenance. Fences need to be sealed, stained, or painted frequently to keep them in good condition.

Another disadvantage to choosing wood include the possibility of damage to the fence and injury to your horse. While it does take a huge amount of force to break a quality wood fence rail, wood splinters when it breaks, leaving sharp points. If a horse collides with the fence at speed, serious injury can result.

Additionally, horses are natural grazers, and they can develop the bad habit of chewing on a wooden fence, leaving grooved bite marks along the top rail. This unnecessary damage is bad for your fence and bad for your horses.


Wire fencing is the least costly option. Rolls of plain wire cost mere cents per linear foot. Attached to simple wooden posts, this is a minimalist style of fence. However, wire fencing is best avoided if at all possible when it comes to keeping horses.

Barbed and smooth wire alike can hurt horses if the fence should collapse or if a horse should become entangled in the wire. Even thin wire can cut deeply and efficiently, causing serious wounds to necks, midsections, legs, and shoulders.

Wire fences are made with uncoated metal, and at high temperatures, the wire can become slack, increasing the risk of entanglement. Even if your horse is well-trained, any horse can become spooked or act out occasionally, so you’re best off removing dangerous materials from your horses’ living area.

While wire fencing can be a great fencing material in many situations, when it comes to fencing in your horses, the safest course of action is to avoid wire fencing completely.

High Tensile Polymer

A more affordable option than wood, high tensile polymer (HTP) fencing offers a lot of advantages. These fences (made to look like wooden posts or thick wires) are made of steel that is coated with polymer.

The result is a somewhat flexible, maintenance-free fence that can imitate the classic look of a post and rail wooden fence. HTP fencing runs in a continuous line, supported by posts, so if your horse runs into it, it will bend, but it will not snap and cause stabbing or splintering injuries. Instead, the entire fence will give way, saving your horse.

Hot Coat

Hot coat fencing is another type of HTP fencing, but this fence allows for an electric charge to run through the fence, combining your plain barrier with an increased deterrent for horses that may need some extra encouragement. The “hot coat” of polymer conducts electricity, so you don’t need to run a separate wire for your electric fence.

Electrical charges can help keep predators out of the horse enclosure, which is a concern for those who live in more rural areas. Because of the extra cost of running electrical, these fences can be slightly more expensive than a general HTP fence.


Vinyl fencing requires almost no maintenance, and it can look just as traditional and clean as a wooden fence. The installation is usually simple, and vinyl is among one of the safest types of fence. It will not splinter or break. Instead, rails may simply pop out under high strain.

To prevent a horse from using their weight to pop out rails intentionally, some owners like to run an electric wire along a vinyl fence to teach animals not to lean on the fence.

The initial investment for a fully vinyl rail fence will be higher than other fencing materials, but they end up being less expensive than wooden fences over time because they do not need to be sanded, painted, or replaced because of rot or mildew.

Metal Panel

Finally, many horse owners like to have some fencing made from metal panels. Unlike other fences, metal panels are usually used to make smaller training rings that can be relocated if needed. These panels can be formed to any shape, and they can be good for helping a horse get into a trailer.

These are not ideal for creating a large paddock but can be essential for serious horsemanship.

For more information on which material is right for your first horse, contact us at Carter Fence Company

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