High-quality fencing is key to any farm or horse property, and plays an important overall role in the daily requirements of your horses by providing a safe enclosure so they can be outdoors to graze and exercise, keeping them healthy and happy. When making the decision as to which material you will be investing in, keep in mind that fencing will add to your property’s value both in aesthetics and functionality, so choose wisely.
If you are after classic country charm, oak board fencing is practical and gorgeous – but like all wood fencing it is also expensive and requires a lifetime of maintenance and upkeep. When I was researching horse owners’ opinions regarding wood fencing, I heard comments including, “Horses think pine is delicious,” and “Hands down, oak!” – and we would agree. Over the last 30 years of installing wood fencing, oak is our recommended wood of choice, as it is more difficult for horses to chew and will hold up better than most other wood. Oak board fencing will warp and crack somewhat, sometimes within days or over many years, but that is the nature of all wood. A well-maintained oak fence, if boards are replaced as necessary, should last 20-30 years.
Ash is an alternative hardwood for fencing, but we do not recommend hemlock, as the wood is unstable and can break or splinter if a horse runs into it.
In some areas of the country you will not have the option of using hardwood and will have to use a softwood material. Spruce is the most common, followed by pressure-treated lumber (wood that has been infused with chemical preservatives under pressure to protect it from rot and insects). The latter is strong, long-lasting, low maintenance, and produced in a number of different colours. If hardwood is not available, it would be the next preferable building material. Spruce will only last up to 10 years; even less in wetter climates. Pressure-treated fencing can last as long as 40 years providing the horses are not chewing on it. I do not recommend cedar rail fencing; is a nice decorative fencing, but not a good horse fence.
We always recommend electric fence to protect your softwood lumber fence. This will keep the horses from leaning on and chewing the fence lines, and will protect your investment for many years to come.
You will want to use rot-resistant cedar posts that are 6” in diameter. This is what is supporting your fence line, and without a good strong post, you may find your fence will be in need of repair more frequently, or may begin to lean and become unsafe.
Regardless of which material you choose, regular maintenance is required as needed. If you choose to paint or stain your fence, you will find this necessary every one to three years, but it will lengthen the life of your fence. Most wood fences (except spruce) should last you over 20 years and, like anything else, doing it right the first time and building your fence with a good foundation will prevent future issues.
Fencing Material Costs*:
Oak: 1”x6”x16’ = $16 each
Pressure-treated: 2”x6”x16’ = $23 each
Spruce: 2”x6”x16’ = $16 each
Ash: 1.125”x6”x16’ = $16 each
Western red cedar split rail:
10’ x 4” x 4” = $13 each
Cedar Posts: 6”x8’ = $17 each
*Current approximate cost in Ontario; prices will vary by province and availability.
Dwayne Job is president and owner of System Fencing Ltd (systemfence.com) in Rockwood, ON. System Fencing, Stalls & Equipment has been serving the equine industry for over 30 years with high-quality products and services. Contact 800-842-6148 or [email protected].