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More Fence Mending

More Fence Mending

Horses looking to escape

We walked up to the barn the other night and the horses were waiting at a section of fence that kind of comes to a “V” right next to the road. It’s kind of tight quarters there and apparently, someone felt crowded because there was some kicking and/or shoving. We didn’t see exactly what happened but there was a horse squeak, sudden movement and then a loud bang and voila! Two fence boards were missing, right next to the road. Luckily, we were right there when it happened because the next thing to happen would be for our two horses to step over the one remaining board and out to freedom. Needless to say, we did an emergency fence repair. At this point, whenever a fence repair is needed, we are replacing nails with screws. They stay in much better.

This is kind of a weak section of the fence anyway, probably because of the aforementioned tight quarters and the also mentioned proximity to the road. Valentine in particular likes to hang out at the shortest part of the V (as in the photo) and push on the boards. We’ve had to repair the top slat three times. The last time, we added vertical support and another board on the pasture side. Even with the reinforcements, though, we check that section pretty frequently.

I just want to say two things about this most recent incident: One – it seems to me that when building a fence, the fence slats should be on the “horse” side of the poles, and not the other way around. It’s much harder for the horses to push nails out that way. And two – Bill’s horse Moonshine is a big bully and picks on my poor Valentine all the time. Meanie.

Related posts:

Fence Mending (12/06)
Mending Horse Fences – Update (5/07)

Fence Mending

Fence Mending

Broken fence

My beautiful four-legged wood chewer finally put too much pressure on the fence and broke the top board. It’s not entirely her fault. This a section of fence where we often stand and pet them and show them off to friends. Horse treats are often dispersed here so they’ve gotten into the habit of leaning into the fence. Very cold weather is coming tonight (wind chill below zero) and this is just when our horses would decide to jump this section of fence and tour the neighborhood. Time for some fence-mending. Here’s what I learned about fence-mending today:

  1. Horses are very curious creatures
  2. Horses think almost anything can be food, including hammers, drills, nails (yikes!), fence wood and of course fingers
  3. It’s hard to use a hammer when horse nostrils are 2 inches from the handle
  4. Although fence-mending would be easier with two people, it would be much easier with three. Think rodeo clown.
  5. If you need to step away to get another tool, you must remove all other tools, nails, screws and wood supplies from the area before leaving.

Fortunately, I had a spare fence board that was just the right length. This time I used screws instead of nails. Screws are less likely to walk out and injure the horses, in my opinion, and aren’t that much more expensive. I also decided to use part of the broken board as a center support. I’m seeing this center support idea in a lot of horse fencing and it makes sense to me. These are 10-foot sections and tend to bow eventually in the middle. The center section will help strengthen the center section, which is especially important on this particular section of horse fence in our pasture.

Horse fence repair
Fence fixed with center support.

We’ve been fence-mending a few times now. Here are our other posts about mending fences:

More Fence Mending (2/07)
Mending Horse Fences – Update (5/07)

Protecting Wooden Stall Doors – Part 1

Protecting Wooden Stall Doors – Part 1

Moonshine is a wood chewer. I think she gets bored and enjoys chewing. I often see her licking the stall doors, the fence, and even the steel gates and every once in a while she seems to take a little nibble. She has plenty of salt licks and we’re working on getting her some horse toys to give her tongue something to do when she’s in the barn (I’ll post about that soon) but for now I needed to protect the wooden doors in her stall. Not only is she slowly destroying them, I’m also afraid she might ingest some wood or at the very least get a splinter in her tongue. There are some products out there to help with this problem such as bitter tasting liquids and steel door coverings. But I had an idea about making a stainless steel or aluminum cover myself for the top piece of wood she’s working on the most. So for part one of this experiment, today I spent a few hours shaping aluminum flashing and securing it to one of her doors to see if it helps. If it works I’ll do a more detailed write-up. I did some preliminary testing to make sure the flashing wasn’t easily torn or cut and made sure to smooth edges and corners and secure all edges.

Here’s what one of her doors looked like before:

Wood stall door before

and after:

Wood stall door after

For an update, see below.

Part 1 – Protecting Wooden Stall Doors (this post)
Part 2 – Stall door protection concept – 6 months later 

Those are My Oats! And Those, and Those…

Those are My Oats! And Those, and Those…


We recently had a recurrence of a problem with Valentine (see Getting a Room). As you know if you’ve read this blog, we have a mare and a gelding. We have a three-horse barn and their stalls are next to each other. Every once in awhile, Valentine for one reason or another decides that he wants to be in her stall. (As for what that reason might be, well, he is a guy – it’s either food or…well, this is a family show.) Since he’s 16.2 hands high (that’s 64.8 inches in people talk) and weighs about 1200 pounds, and there’s an inch of wood slats and a few nails and screws between him and his destination, it’s not too hard for him to accomplish his goal. So a few days ago, we came up to the barn to find one less plank of wood between their stalls. Again.

So this time, in addition to replacing the nails with screws, we took the simple but effective step of switching their stalls. The wall between their stalls is formed by vertical slats nailed to two horizontal planks, one at the top and one at the bottom. Moonshine’s stall was the smooth side of the wall; the nail heads were on her side. So Valentine could simply push on the boards and presto! Out popped the nails and down went the boards. By putting him in the stall with the smooth side, it made it much harder for him to remove the planks because he would have to actually break the boards. Of course, if he wanted to, he could easily do it, but shhhh…don’t tell him that.

Anyway, Valentine’s now in the middle stall and Moonshine is in the first stall. Unfortunately, after months of it being the other way around, we were bound to forget the new routine, and tonight we did. We opened the gate and let Moonshine into the middle stall. We could have just left her there, I suppose, but we really didn’t want to risk yet another replay of Getting a Room. At the very least, it’s a pain to put those boards back up, and the worst-case scenario is an injury to one or both of our horses.

So we needed to switch her into the other stall. Let me tell you, that was easier said than done. There were OATS in the feed trough. Once her head was in there, she wasn’t letting them go. Since we don’t leave halters on our horses (I’ll have to post the reasons for that someday), I couldn’t just grab her and pull her out of the stall. We tried to get her out of the stall by pushing her around. Normally that would work, because she’s actually very obedient, but have I mentioned that she really likes OATS? She wasn’t budging. I risked life and limb and stood in front of the bucket to keep her away from the oats while Bill tried to lure her out with a handful of oats, but she’s no dummy. Trade 2 cups of oats for about a tablespoon? Come on. Eventually, Bill went for the halter while I tried to keep Moonshine from eating my jacket till he got back. We got the halter on and pulled her out of that stall into the right stall with no problem, and let a very anxious Valentine into his stall to discover if there were any oats left for him. Needless to say, that bucket required a refill.

Why Are Barns Made of Wood?

Why Are Barns Made of Wood?

Horse stall latch

Seriously. You take a couple of 1000+ pound animals with sharp tools on their feet and put them in a structure made of wood and held together with a few thin pieces of metal, and there are going to be incidents. Take our adventure a few weeks ago, and then what happened last night.

Our barn is about 100 yards from our house, and we’re fairly deep sleepers. Luckily for us (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), we have three canine sensors with keen hearing who aren’t afraid to let us know if something is amiss, at least in their tiny little minds. Like at 4:00 this morning, when Jack, the oldest, went nuts barking. Usually, this means that the neighbor dogs down the hill, who live outside, are barking – why we need to know this, I don’t know, but he doesn’t like to miss any opportunity to bark. But when he’s insistent, like he was this time, we always check it out. Bill pointed out later that any good farmer would have been checking it out by standing on the porch with a shotgun in his hand, but we prefer to do it by peeking out the windows in our jammies.

On this occasion, there did appear to be something actually amiss – there was some loud banging coming from the barn. Bill looked out every window that offers a view of the barn, but couldn’t see anything, and that includes horses. There were no horses to be seen. Finally, he ventured out on the back porch, sans shotgun, just in time to see the outer door of Valentine’s stall – which in addition to being latched is nailed shut – fly open and reveal Valentine on his back with legs flailing in the air. He ran back to tell me (I wasn’t fully awake yet) and we started pulling clothes and shoes on. I ran up to the barn to see Valentine standing outside his stall, looking pretty much normal, although a bit surprised.

Unfortunately, the outside door of his stall is surrounded by stuff – the tub to a utility trailer and a pile of fence rails. There is no way a horse can get out of there without jumping. He’s apparently not much of a jumper and decided to turn around. I don’t know how he managed it in that small space, but he did. He went back in his stall and I followed him in. We checked him from head to toe, and with the exception of some bleeding from a pre-existing wound and being pretty sweaty and caked with what I’ll politely call “dirt,” nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We let him and the mare out into the pasture, 4 hours early, and investigated the area to try to figure out what happened.

The evidence: A dirty, sweaty but uninjured horse standing outside his stall; spilled water bucket next to the stall door, still hanging on the hook; open stall door with scuff marks and small gouges on the inside; and stall door latch ripped off, found about 15 feet away from stall door. Also, Bill’s observation of said horse laying on his back in the stall with his legs in the air.

Conclusion: Valentine laid down and at some point maneuvered himself into a position where he couldn’t easily get up. This caused him to panic, so he flailed those long legs around so violently that he burst his stall door open. After it was open, he managed to get himself up, only to discover that, hey! There’s a door open! So he wandered out into the small space but couldn’t go any further.

So, we fixed the stall door and moved the debris. Hey, if the mare can wander around in the middle of the night and eat grass, Valentine should too, right? Actually, we just thanked our lucky stars that he didn’t injure himself on the stuff out there and moved it just in case it happened again.

This brought up an issue we’ve been wrestling with: barn security. A previous owner had, as I mentioned, nailed the outside stall door latches shut. This is good in a way because it’s hard for someone to sneak your horses out that particular door. It’s also bad in case of an emergency – what if the barn is on fire and you can’t get the horses out through the inside doors? There is a fine line between keeping your horses (which are, let’s face it, valuable property) secure and being prepared to get them out of the barn at a moment’s notice. A lot of people keep an inexpensive halter hanging outside each stall door in case of emergency. We find ourselves unable to do this, for fear of making horse theft that much easier.

For a future installment: Ways to protect your horse from theft and get it back if it is stolen, e.g. branding and microchipping.

Getting A Room

Getting A Room

Sharing a stall damangeHaving a boy horse and a girl horse is interesting, even if it’s a mare (can make baby horses) and a gelding (can’t make baby horses). They still go through most of the motions, especially her and it’s obvious to me she gets quite frustrated when our gelding doesn’t show as much interest as a stallion would. But still they flirt. They nibble eat other, posture and he’s sorta interested. When they’re near the barn I usually tell them to get a room. Well…this week they did that.

The night before it happened we were outside roasting marshmallows and I thought I heard banging in the barn. I went to investigate and I swear the horses were looking out of their stall, whistling, as if to say “nothing to see here, move along human”. I looked around and saw nothing. The next morning I get up, walk to the barn and notice troublemaker Valentine’s head poking out of Moonshine’s stall. When I got to the stall I saw her in the background, eyes wide open as if to say “I told him we’d get in trouble…IT WAS ALL HIM!”. That banging was apparently Valentine, our big gelding, kicking the boards between his stall and hers (see pic). Upon closer inspection, I can’t see how he got through there, as he’s wider than the opening.

So I let the horses out and we re-installed the boards, this time with screws.

Now as funny as this is, a few things have me concerned:

  1. I’ve heard horses shouldn’t be in the same stall, even if the stall is pretty large. They’re big, powerful and not graceful in small places.
  2. The displaced stall boards were laying on the ground with the nails poking up. Most of the nails were bent over so I imagine they stepped on them.
  3. Even with strong screws, if this 16.3 hand gelding wants to visit my mare, a few screws and a 3/4 inch wood slat isn’t going to stop him. I hope this isn’t a trend.

Oh, and to be fair I see how she encourages him so my mare isn’t the least bit innocent in this incident.

Carpenter Bees Attack!

Carpenter Bees Attack!

Carpenter bee closeup

As a kid, I recall spring and summer brought lots of bees. I specifically remember these huge bees and how they would bore holes into our wooden fences. They never seemed to do any harm to me so I left them alone. Now that as grownups we’ve moved from the city to the country and spring is upon us, I started noticing these huge bees here in Tennessee. There have been a lot of them around our house and barn (both structures have wood siding) but since the bees haven’t been bothering us, I didn’t pay much attention. That is until I noticed the number of holes they were drilling into our house and barn.

Carpenter Bee Damage

These holes are BIG (almost dime size) and there are a lot of them. But I really paid attention after doing some research on the Internet. The one or two-inch deep hole we’re seeing is only a tiny part of the tunnel they bore. That tunnel takes a 90-degree turn and can continue anywhere from 4 inches to 10 feet, depending on how many bees use it. Obviously this kind of tunneling can cause serious structural damage. So now we’re on the hunt to kill carpenter bees. Here are some interesting things we’ve learned:

  • Females drill the holes and are the only ones with stingers.
  • Males are very aggressive but do not have stingers so they can do little harm.
  • Adult carpenter bees “overwinter” (hibernate?) in these tunnels and then emerge in spring to mate and drill some more.
  • Insecticides can easily kill the bees but it’s difficult to eradicate the eggs those bees have already laid. Dusting with carbaryl (Sevin) seems to be most effective against infestation and re-infestation since applied dust can travel through the tunnels. This can kill the bees and help de-hydrate larvae the following season. Dusters are available at many hardware stores for around $15.
  • Some wait until fall to plug-up treated holes but holes should be plugged after the adult bees are dead.
  • Prevention includes diligent treatment of existing infestation as well as painting wood surfaces. Carpenter bees seem to prefer unpainted, untreated wood. Wood stain doesn’t seem to help, but pressure-treated wood does.

So now we’re spending an hour or two every week working on this carpenter bee problem. In our barn alone, which is a six-stall barn (pictures later), I must have dusted 50 holes so far. Uggg.

For more information, the following link was helpful to us and there are a lot of articles on Google:

Ohio State University Extension – Carpenter Bees, HYG-2074-94