Horse Care Other

Healthy Boundaries: How Tall Should Horse Fencing Be?

wood horse fencing with red barn in background
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Written by Holly N.

Horse Fencing Basics for Beginners

My horse has a fence-destroying butt! She loves rubbing her tail and can easily dislodge an upright pole and a couple of horizontal planks in a single morning’s rump massage. This issue is only one of the many challenges horse owners face when it comes to choosing appropriate horse fencing.

When deciding on the best fence for a horse paddock, you need to consider cost, durability, and safety. The fence must be strong enough to withstand your horse’s abuse, which comes in many forms. Standard height of a horse fence is between 4.5 and 5 feet tall, and it needs to stand up to everything from butt-rubbing to chewing, pawing to kicking.

two horses behind a traditional wood fence painted black

Source: Canva

Form, Function, and Financing

The most critical aspect of any horse fence is safety. The fence must be properly installed and maintained to fulfill its purpose without endangering either horses or humans. Any sharp edges or corners could injure your horse (or you) if he leans or scratches on the fence, while boxy corners could entrap a horse that’s being harassed by its pasture mate.

Good-quality fencing is never cheap, and going for the most affordable option could end up costing you a small fortune in veterinary fees if it compromises safety.

In some instances, it’s worth paying more for the initial installation, if it means you save on maintenance costs further down the line.

Installing a fence is a big job and not one you want to repeat every few months, so opting for a durable fence made of weather-resistant materials is your best option for the long haul.

Not only must a horse fence be safe, within your budget, and durable, but it must also be functional. That means remembering to put in strategically-placed gates as well as access to water and potentially an electric source.

You also need to think about location, making sure your paddock is easily accessible and conveniently situated in relation to your barn, tack room, and feed room.

herd of horses behind metal mesh fence

Source: Canva

Optimal Fence Height for Horses

The standard height of a horse fence is between 4.5 and 5 feet tall. This height of fence can safely contain most horses unless they’re particularly tall or exceptional jumpers.

A more accurate way to judge the optimal height fence for your specific horses is to ensure the top rail reaches the height of your tallest horse’s withers.

If you’re building a fence for miniature horses, you can probably get away with a four-foot fence, but should put the rails closer together to prevent fence crawling.

Similarly, if you’re breeding horses, you need to position the bottom rail of the fence no higher than 8 inches off the ground to prevent the foals from rolling out of the field by mistake. This will also reduce pressure on the fence by discouraging horses from pushing their heads underneath to reach the (inevitably greener) grass on the other side.

Optimal Fence Design for Horses

Before installing your fence, you should have a clear plan of what you want it to look like.

We’ve already established that it needs to be at least 4.5 to 5 feet tall and no higher than 8 inches off the ground.

There should be no sharp corners that a horse could get stuck in, and no sharp edges that could cause it injury. Similarly, the fence must be highly visible, as horses have pretty poor near-sight vision.

Fencing also needs to be robust enough to withstand the pressure of a horse rubbing, leaning, or even running into the fence. It should be free of small openings that could trap an unsuspecting hoof or head.

Ideally, you should be able to open and close gates using just one hand, and have all-weather tracks connecting your turn-out areas with the rest of your facilities.

Best Materials for Horse Fencing

metal horse fence

Source: Canva

I doubt there’s a horse owner out there who hasn’t fantasized about having a traditional, white post-and-rail fence surrounding their property. Although this traditional approach might look beautiful, wood isn’t necessarily the best material for horse fencing. It’s expensive to install and requires a lot of maintenance.

Wood is susceptible to weather damage and won’t take kindly to being chewed on by a cribber!

Mesh wire fences are growing in popularity because they’re strong, safe, and durable. You will need a more expensive type of mesh wire if you want it to be safe for horses, as the conventional farm woven fences have 4 to 6-inch gaps that your horse could get a hoof stuck in.

The best mesh wire fencing for horses has 2“ x 4” gaps that protect the horse against potential injury and keeps predators at bay.

Another type of mesh wire fence is a non-climb or V-mesh fence with a diamond-shaped pattern that prevents the horse from getting stuck while providing an effective barrier against predators. This type of fence also flexes on impact, making it safer for your horses.

PVC fencing looks great, but isn’t as durable as wood and is liable to break under pressure, so is only effective when coupled with electric fencing.

Over the years, I’ve relied heavily on electric fencing and used it both on its own and in conjunction with a wooden fence. When used to reinforce other types of fencing, electric tape can increase longevity and durability.

Used alone, it’s less effective, but can be useful for temporary enclosures.

two horses behind an electric fence

Source: Canva

One of the problems with electric fencing, however, is that you need to keep the fence line clear to prevent any shorts, which can be challenging as your horse will no longer graze that section due to the threat of an electric shock.

Fences to Steer Clear of with Horses

Barbed wire fences are potential death traps for horses.

The barbs on the wire can cause serious injury if a horse runs into the fence or, even worse, gets caught in it. Horses also love rubbing on fences and can sustain minor injuries and scratches almost daily if surrounded by barbed wire.

Single-wire fences are also potentially dangerous, largely due to the lack of visibility. Horses may not see the wires and could become entangled in them.

white horse behind barbed wire fence

Source: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can a horse fence be 4 feet tall?

A four-foot fence is suitable for miniature horses, but unlikely to keep a standard-sized horse safely enclosed. The top rail should be the same height as your tallest horse’s withers, which usually stand between 4.5 and 5 feet high.

Q: How tall is a 3-board horse fence?

3-board or rail-type fences are usually four-feet tall.

Q: What size fence posts do you need for horses?

For a horse fence, the posts must be at least eight feet long and a minimum of five inches in diameter. Corner and gate posts should be wider with a diameter of at least eight inches.

Q: What is the best fence for horses?

The best fence for horses depends on various factors, but a wire or no-climb fence suits most situations. Not only are these safe, but they’re also strong, durable, and cost-effective.

Q: What kind of fencing is not recommended for horses?

You should never use barbed wire in a fence for horses. The horses will struggle to see the fence, and run the risk of getting caught up in the barbs, which could cause career or even life-threatening injuries.

Q: Why do horse farms have double fences?

Double fences are popular on horse farms because they allow different groups of horses to socialize without physical interaction. They also reduce pressure on the fence by preventing neighboring horses from sparring or fighting.

Redundant fencing can be especially helpful if a horse escapes an interior paddock fence. Having a secondary perimeter fence will allow a loose horse to be safely contained and caught before getting in any real danger.

horse crow hopping in front of natural wood fence

Source: Canva

Parting Thoughts

The best horse fencing should keep your horse safe and secure inside your property and prevent others from entering its paddock or turn-out area. It must be highly visible, free of potential dangers, and high enough that your horse won’t jump out.

It must also be robust enough to withstand the weather, and boisterous horse behavior, such as rubbing, scratching, leaning, chewing, and pawing.

Ideally, it should also look smart and professional—at least to begin with!

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Horse Fencing: Pros and Cons of 5 Different Options

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About the author

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Holly started riding as a six years old in the UK and competed regularly in local events, including showjumping, cross country, showing, working hunter, and gymkhana. She now lives and rides in South Africa, working as a trail guide with Wild Coast Horseback Adventures. Her interests are primarily in the areas of DIY horse ownership, trail riding, barefoot horses, endurance, competitive trail riding, and South African breeds.