While checking the water trough levels and doing a quick walk by near our barn I noticed several broken fence boards. Our fence is a combination of three board wooden fence and legacy barbed wire we plan to replace with something horse-friendly. The wooden fence looks nice but is brutalized by the sun and is a pain to repair. It’s mostly horse-strong but these beautiful beasts can’t resist the potentially greener grass on the other side. The worst offender is probably Valentine, who I loving call our giraffe because he’s so tall.
Three times so far this summer the wooden fence has been broken and each time we put up new wood and recommit to keeping the grass “on the other side” short to reduce temptation. We’re pretty sure Valentine reaches over the top and just pushes through. Fortunately, he doesn’t step over and escape.
This week was the latest break, two sections, top boards. We ran out of fence railings and had to borrow some from a section outside the horse area. This time we affixed a 2×4 for extra support but this isn’t a long term solution.
Speaking of long term solutions, if you’ve read through our blog before you’ll see this is a frequent problem and the long term solution is to replace the entire fence with something more durable and horse friendly. But for a property this size, it’s expensive and time-consuming. My recommendation to anyone looking at horse property or creating a horse enclosure for the first time is to install good horse fencing from the start. Barbed wire can cause terrible injury and wood isn’t strong enough and requires maintenance, especially after the sun bakes it for a few years. If wood is already installed, like in our case, consider electrifying the top rail, which is an option we’re considering.
In addition to the wood fence repairs, we also found a few areas where the barbed wire became loose enough for a horse to step over. We discovered this after finding Romeo in our front yard one day. We replaced part of that section with barbless wire and additional steel posts. It’s a reminder that steel fencing, although more durable, also needs periodic maintenance.
Overall, whatever fence you choose for your horse enclosures, it should be periodically checked, especially after storms if trees are nearby. If you take a break and your horses become pasture ornaments, it’s easy to miss seeing things that need repair since you may not be around your horse area as often.
Four years ago we had a problem with Moonshine cribbing. Her bad habit was destroying the wood on her stall doors so I got an idea to cover the wood. This worked initially (see part 2) but eventually a tear developed in the thin aluminum and I worried about her cutting her tongue or face on the sharp metal. Other than that, the concept worked. To improve on the aluminum design, I needed something that would cover the affected area and hold up to a horse frequently licking it and occasionally biting it. While scanning the fabrication aisle at Home Depot, I came across a section of thicker, angled aluminum wide enough to cover the inside top of the stall door. I removed the old, thin aluminum section, clamped the new angled piece in place and drilled holes every foot. I then screwed the new section in place and made sure all edges were smooth. I’m a little behind on posting about this but the benefit of that is that I now know if this solution works. I’m happy to report that after a year of Moonshine licking and biting that stall door the new section is still in place, there are no sharp pieces or tears and Moonshine hasn’t suffered any injury. Total investment was about $8 and a half-hour of time. Now that winter has returned and the horses are spending more time in the barn, I plan on adding this protection bar on the other stall door (each outside stall has two doors) and even though our other horses aren’t big wood chewers, I’d like the whole barn to match. The horses that occupied the barn before we moved here wore the stall door tops down so I’ll need to replace those but hopefully this will be the last time.
If you let it go, horses who chew wood can do a lot of damage. Here are a few pictures I took at a historic barn at the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, North Carolina showing extensive damage to a stall door top and on the walls.
Do you have a wood chewer/cribber? What works for you?
In the past couple of weeks we’ve been traveling quite a bit. At one point there was no one home for about 7 days. During that time our horse friend Shari kept an eye on the place and fed our outside animals (the dogs were at a kennel). Several days into our vacation, we got a voice message from an older neighbor saying our horses were out and were roaming the neighborhood and highway and they didn’t know what to do since they weren’t horse people. In fact I think they thought we were still home because we often arrange to have cars in our driveway so it doesn’t appear as though the house is empty. We immediately began dialing through our list of horse rescue contacts to ask for help. We were about 2,000 miles away from home at this point. Unfortunately, almost all of our horse contacts were off doing weekend things, far from home. We finally reached a vet friend and the girl we bought Romeo from (thanks guys!) and they quickly led the horses back into the pasture. The fence was down in one section. To make a long story short, although the fence was repaired each time, this has happened a total of four times in the past two weeks. Our horses have learned two lessons:
There is an abundance of yummy green grass on the other side of our fence.
It doesn’t take much for a 1,000+ pound horse to knock down a wooden fence.
As soon as we got home, I bought a bunch of new fence boards and have been replacing weak boards. Each time, they find a new section to push on. Often it’s Cash, scratching his bottom on the fence. Sometimes it’s Valentine, giraffing over the top to get to the grass just beyond. Whoever the culprit, it needs to stop! The most recent time was last night and fortunately we were home to resolve it. When you see headlights in your driveway at 11:30 PM, you have to know something is wrong. It was feeding time so rounding them up was easy but these escaping episodes are at best annoying and at worst dangerous. We spoke about the need for an electric fence last year but when the grass stopped growing, the horses stopped pushing the fence down. This time we’re going to do it. We’ve got some rough measurements and I’m calling Electrobraid to place my order. We spent hours today (60 holes drilled, 60 screws) adding inside boards to the top row so each section has two rails on top. We’ll run a strand of electric fence along the top to keep them off of the fence. Unfortunately it looks like it takes 10 days or so for shipping. We’re paranoid every time we hear a car nearby and are afraid to leave the house for fear they’ll get out while we gone!
I need to verify this with Electrobraid but the price for the rope and accessories, plus shipping, comes to a reasonable $900 or so (1,200 foot section). With this system, not only will we be able to help fix this wooden fence issue, we’ll also have a system we can use to replace our barbed wire sections, something we’ve been meaning to do since we got here. It looks like this project doesn’t want to wait anymore.
Any of you had trouble keeping your horses on the right side of the fence?
When the weather’s nice, our horses are only in the barn for about 15 minutes a day, when we feed them grain. We let them into their stalls, they have their grain, then they go on out again. A few days ago, we were watching Cash finish up, marveling at how very dirty he is. The reason he’s so dirty is that he likes to roll, and as we were standing there watching, he did that very thing. He knelt down just like a camel, rolled on to his back, wiggled back a forth a couple of times, then kicked out his back feet to flip back over…knocking the stall door off its hinges in the process. It was really quite impressive – he didn’t kick very hard at all, but those hinges didn’t stand a chance. So we got some longer bolts, which hopefully will fare better.
I’ll tell you, whenever wood splinters around this place – and it happens too darn often – Cash is almost always behind it. Troublemaker.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that one of our frisky horses broke through the fence…AGAIN. This is the third time this has happened at this spot and the second time the break resulted in an escaped horse. Apparently, horses can’t read signs. Not an exit…NOT AN EXIT! Fortunately, I work from home and my office is close enough to this section of fence for me to have heard a loud noise. I went to investigate and found Cash eating grass in our backyard. The other horses were chasing each other nowhere near the fence. It’s cooler today and raining and it seems to have made them frisky. Our backyard has some yummy grass so it was hard to incent Cash into leaving it. Oats did the trick, along with a lead rope but given our last escapee incident with Cash, I expected him to bolt at any second.
This time Cash broke through a double fence board. I image he must have kicked it because he has no marks on him. That section of fence is a little low so perhaps it was tempting to him. When we get an electric fence, we’re going to bypass this peninsula. In the meantime, I replaced the broken boards with a 2×6 and added a riser to make it seem higher. It’s not the most attractive fence section but hopefully it will do the trick until the electric fence is installed.
When we first arrived here at the farm, there was wiring for an electric fence but it wasn’t hooked up to anything. Eventually we removed the wiring because it simply didn’t look good and we didn’t really need it. Now we think it’s probably time to reconsider. We decided to barbecue so I headed outside around 6, just in time to see Moonshine stepping over a section of fence near the barn. She was the third horse to do so. Cash and Romeo were already enjoying the irresistible grass on the other side of the fence. In this case, the grass really is greener on the other side. Valentine, our huge (to us) Walking Horse is the likely culprit for knocking down the fence. He’s always reaching his giraffe neck over to nibble on grass and at almost 1300 pounds, it doesn’t take much leaning to push out nails. I don’t know why the person who built the fence didn’t put the boards on the inside but Valentine has been known to snap boards in half, too. But for all of his brute strength and fence mischief, he’s never escaped after knocking boards down and this time he was far away from the other horses as if to disassociate himself with the escapees.
So I grabbed a bucket with some feed and Mikki grabbed a halter and lead rope and we headed up to coax the horses back onto the correct side of the fence. Mikki headed for Cash first because of that last incident where we chased him through the woods for four hours. He started to walk away but Mikki was able to get the lead rope around his neck, after which he was compliant. Next, I tempted Moonshine with some feed but with a mouth full of yummy green grass, she turned and walked away. Romeo, who lives to eat (and love) came over and happily snarfled the feed without competition. That is, until Moonshine noticed. Once she knew someone else wanted it, she wanted it too and I was able to walk them over the fence again. We led them all to the barn and fed them their evening rations while we went about fixing the fence.
Wooden fences are nice but they require a lot of upkeep. Ours is aging and in need of new paint. Several of the boards are warped and should probably be replaced. Each time this kind of thing has happened (the horses rarely escape but board do occasionally come down), we replace the boards using screws instead of nails. This time we did that and added some extra braces over where the boards meet at the posts.
So that brings us to electric fences. We could go cheap and get the basic electric livestock wire or we could spend a little more and go for something like Electrobraid. We intend to replace the barbed wire with something like Electrobraid so provided the system is expandable, perhaps that’s the way we’ll go. I still like the look of the wooden fence, so we’d probably use it on the inside to keep the horses off of the fence. And because wiring to our breaker box would be difficult, solar is probably our best power source choice.
Have you caught your horses on the wrong side of the fence? Are any of you using Electrobraid or some other electric fence?`
As I mentioned earlier, “Cash” is in our barn to test him out with our resident horses. Mikki works during the day so we decided to keep Cash in the barn until she got home so we could watch him together. I felt bad for him being cooped up in the barn all day so I put his halter on and took him for a walk this morning. As with the previous day, he was curious but well behaved. He ate some green grass while I washed him and dressed a wound with ichthymol. No problems. He was happy to go back into the barn but didn’t want anything to do with Moonshine, who was making quite a racket.
Our farrier came by to check out Cash’s feet and even though one foot has a slight clubbing, it didn’t look bad to him. He wasn’t concerned as long as the horse didn’t exhibit problems walking on it. Next I had the bright idea to put Moonshine in her stall so Cash and Valentine could socialize and establish order. This went pretty well. Valentine isn’t aggressive at all and seemed curious but not pushy. Next to our barn is what I call “the peninsula”. It’s an area that juts out towards the small road by our house where the horses like to stand and watch cars drive by and cows across the way. Cash headed to the peninsula and from the other side of the barn I saw Valentine slowly walking that way. Now the peninsula can be a trap and for this reason we should probably fence it off. There are two ways in and out – one high and one low – but it still feels like a corner. I didn’t see what happened next but I heard a loud crack and the sound of tin crinkling, followed by shod hooves cantering down the road. Cash had escaped. I knew enough to quickly grab a bucket with some feed and a halter with lead rope, as I hurried after him. A quick glance at the fence explained the noise. Cash had somehow broken the top two fence boards at the end of the peninsula, both of which were reinforced because Valentine like to eat grass over the fence in that spot. Did he run right through it? Did he try to jump the fence? Why? I have no clue. Cash ran down the road where I walked him earlier that morning, promptly turned (thankfully…the highway was less than a quarter of a mile in that direction) and headed towards me. I shook the bucket and offered it to him but he wasn’t interested. He ran right past me towards the barn. The gate was open so I hoped he would run into the barn but instead he ran up the road, past our farm. The road was fenced on both sides for quite a ways so I gently called him as I hurried in that direction. He walked past a few houses, avoiding the curious neighbors that happened to be outside. The end of this road is private and I had never been very far down it. I was about to get the whole tour. Cash made his way to the end of the road and headed for a garden. I caught up to him and ever so gently tried to send the lead rope around his neck but he knew I was chasing him and avoided me at all costs. The elderly couple who lived there came out to see what the ruckus was and I apologized for the intrusion. They didn’t seem to mind and even tried to help me wrangle him. Realizing the road was somewhat blocked, Cash headed into the woods and we both ventured further and further from home. Mikki wasn’t answering her cell phone so I called Shari for help. She sent Mikki home (they work together) but Mikki forgot her cell phone so she had trouble finding me. Heck, I didn’t even know where I was at this point! Cash navigated through a junk yard full of rusty old cars, sharp scrap metal and broken glass. I, in my shorts and boots, followed him. Shari recommended I not chase him but instead wait for Mikki to show up. Sometimes women have better luck catching horses. So I trailed him at a distance so I knew where he was while I waited for Mikki to find us.
Cash headed down a trail, even further from home. He eventually found a creek, which he crossed to try and reach the pasture on the other side. Fortunately and unfortunately there was a fence on the other side. At least he couldn’t go any further that way but the fence was barbed wire and he seemed to be trying to push through it or jump is. I saw this horse run up and down steep embankments, though thick brush and over small trees and all the while I’m thinking he’s going to get hurt. Once he got close enough to me so I was able to pet him and try to calm him down but when I tried to slowly move towards his head he bolted again.
What seemed like an hour later, Mikki finally found us. She had to ask several neighbors to use their phones and apparently the very rough geographic indicators (south of the old barn at the bottom of the hill from the junkyard), as well as some audio cues (think marco-polo) but eventually there were two of us. At this point, Cash was close to being tangle in old barbed wire. I have heard the stories and seen pictures of horses that got themselves caught in barbed wire and it isn’t pretty. That and Cash had wedged himself between the barbed wire fence and some trees at the top of a narrow and steep embankment. What the heck?! I stayed a distance away and Mikki trudged through the muddy creek to reach him. As she approached, Cash tried to jump the barbed-wire fence but couldn’t. Mikki spoke softly to him, climbed up to where he was and was able to halter him.
Here’s a short video from my cell phone so you get a feel for how he was stuck. The video is of terrible quality and you can barely see him but you’ll get the point. In the video, he’s rubbing on the barbed wire fence, trying to run through it and jump over it. Scary! You’ll hear me say “don’t do it buddy!”. I didn’t know what to say.
Once the halter was on him, he seemed perfectly normal again. It was a challenge (and probably pretty dangerous) getting him down off of the ledge, through the thick brush and trees and old barbed wire, through the junk yard again and then a two mile walk home but the entire way he behaved as though nothing happened.
Back at home after almost 4 hours in the hot sun, we were all tired, hot, thirsty, cut up and bruised. Mikki washed his old and new wounds, dressed them and put Cash into the barn. Valentine and Moonshine looked at him as if to say “what the heck happened to you?”
Here’s what the fence looked like:
I put up new slats with screws and doubled up the top one, making it as high as possible. It’s a miracle he didn’t impale himself on the sharp pieces of broken wood. I’m starting to think we need to consider one of the electro-braid fencing alternatives. While it might not have stopped him, the braided rope wouldn’t impale him.
At night we put Cash into the round pen and let Valentine loose. Moonshine has been curtailed in the barn ever since. Valentine, ever the curious one, slowly and gently went to investigate the new horse in the round pen but Cash wasn’t in to socializing.
It’s been almost 24 hours since this ordeal and things have settled down quite a bit. Valentine routinely spends time near the round pen. He pretty much goes between the barn and the round pen now. Cash doesn’t appear to mind and gets quite close to him. When Valentine followed me to the barn, Cash got pretty excited, as if he wanted to go too. Otherwise he occasionally nibbles the grass or stands in the shade. Earlier this afternoon I washed his wounds, dressed them and took him for a walk around the back part of the pasture, which he hasn’t ever been through until now. I wanted him to know his options so he could “escape” back there if he felt threatened by one of our horses. I hate this part – introducing new horses to the herd. It’s so stressful for everyone.
The plan is to let the horses get acquainted through the bars of the round pen for a while. Then maybe we’ll introduce Cash to the pasture again with Valentine loose. Later we’ll let Moonshine out there while he’s in the round pen. Some internet research also revealed the suggestion that we take all the rear shoes off of the horses. They all need new shoes anyway.
A runaway horse kit?
Oh, so back to the point of this post (and I know it’s an extra-long one). As I was chasing this horse yesterday, I realized I was missing a few things that would be been handy. But I didn’t have time to round things up because I needed to make sure I knew which way the horse was headed at all times. This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered runaway horses, either. Once we accidentally left our gate open and once we tried to help Shari catch one of her loose horses. Maybe it’s a good idea to have a backpack we could quickly grab. In it could be:
1) Halter and lead rope (we should have one in each vehicle, too)
2) Map – this seems stupid but I could have used one yesterday
3) Flashlight – could be dark outside
4) Bottled water – you might be out there a while
5) Horse treats or food in a zip baggie
6) Something to display the horse treats/food/bribe in to the horse
7) Snake bite kit! Don’t think I wasn’t worried about that yesterday. Maybe even a bee sting kit.
8) Basic tools – knife and a small finger saw – the flexible kind you can cut a tree limb with, if need be. I needed this yesterday.
10) Small first aid kit/Something with which to make a tourniquet
11) Flute or piper (pied piper anyone?) – kidding 🙂
And don’t forget your cell phone!!! Though you probably wouldn’t keep it in this backpack.
Got any other ideas for an emergency runaway horse kit or advice for us?
I don’t have all the details yet but Mikki called a little while ago to tell me Moonshine was tied up at the trainer’s barn and suddenly went berserk, bucking continually all the way down his long driveway and into the road where she met a car. No one was hurt and it appears Moonshine sustained only minor injuries. The car, apparently, was no so fortunate. I’m told the impact dented a door and broke a window.
Obviously this raises several concerns and questions:
Is Moonshine really OK? Time will tell.
Why did she suddenly go nuts, bucking down a half mile driveway? Is she safe to ride? Was she stung by a bee or something?
Who is responsible for the damage to the car?
We have LOTS of other things to write about but obviously this gets the most attention first.
A few days after our horses got loose, we were talking with some friends and discovered that the little runaway scene the other night did actually cause some property damage. The friends that caught our horses for us had a suspicious break in their electric fence. Now there are other ways this can happen but it’s likely our horses ran into it, probably got the shock of their lives and scooted off, wide-eyed and wide awake. They ended up in the front lawn of the house and that was the beginning of them being captured. It’s a good thing our friend’s cows weren’t in that pasture or it could have been a bigger problem. We, of course, offered to pay for the fence repair and it caused no ill-will but it goes to show you horses getting loose can turn out to be a big deal. At least here in Tennessee property damage caused by loose animals in the responsibility of the animal owner. Even car insurance companies will sue animal owners to recoup damage expenses.
We have learned quite a lesson here. Of course we didn’t let them out intentionally and have always been concerned about leaving a gate open but now we triple check!
About 6 months ago I posted a note discussing the wood-chewing habits of my dear Moonshine (Protecting Wooden Stall Doors – Part 1). We thought she was bored while in her stall overnight figuring that would explain why she like munching on her main stall door. So in November I went about fabricating an aluminum door cover to make it harder for her to destroy the door with her teeth. I was initially concerned she might bite through the aluminum, causing sharp edges that might cut her tongue or mouth. Six months later, that still hasn’t happened. The aluminum trim is pretty attractive still and hasn’t been damaged by my horse at all. Although at first she liked to lick it after eating her oats, she doesn’t seem to do that anymore. In fact, she doesn’t seem to chew on wood anymore. I mentioned this recently in the post titled Wood chewing habit update. It seems that since we changed to a different feed – Purina Strategy – Moonshine stopped chewing wood. From what people have been telling me, it seems like the feed store sweet oats we had been feeding her were lacking something she wanted/needed. Strategy provides it. Prior to Strategy we tried Purina Omolene 100 and that seemed to work, too.
I don’t plan on removing the aluminum shield I made but at this point I don’t think I’ll be making one for the other door. If you have a chewer and changing feed doesn’t work for you, in addition to trying some horse stall toys, a stall door cover/shield might help protect your barn and your horse until you have the problem licked.