Over the past year we’ve spent time mending horse fences. Some repairs worked, some didn’t last. Here’s what we’ve learned:
Screws work better than nails. Eventually nails creep out, especially since horses tend to lean against fence boards pretty hard. At least ours do.
When using screws, drill pilot holes first. Otherwise you end up with wood splitting. In fact, many of the boards that were nailed in actually split from the nail.
Have spares – never know when you need them, such as in the middle of the night. There have been a few times this year when we heard a loud bang outside and it turned out the horses had broken a fence board. It’s important to have spares around for emergency repairs.
Save broken fence pieces for other repairs. We occasionally have a break in the middle of our 12 foot fence boards. We’ll take the two halves and trim them for use as center supports.
Center supports work and look nice. A center support is simply a small section of board attached across the center of the three fence boards. Lots of people don’t use them but I find our 12 foot sections tend to sag over time in the middle. The center support ties the three boards together in the middle to prevent that and to spread the force of a horse leaning on the middle across all three boards. They also look nice.
Fences are expensive! We discovered our 3 board fence costs about $40 per 12 foot section. That really adds up when you’re looking to put in 150 foot of fencing. We may need to replace a few sections of barbed wire fence at a time.
I have an idea for a fence strengthening brace that might also look really nice. The idea came to me while I brainstormed about how to save the fence boards that had split at their nail holes. I wanted to see if there was a way I could repair them using easy-to-find and inexpensive hardware items. What I came up with is a simple piece of flat steel brace with three holes in it. If I screw the fence boards into the posts through one of these, it would spread the grip of those three screws across the entire brace, essentially clamping the board onto the post. And if I painted it black and maybe rounded the corners, it would like nice against the wood. Here’s my concept photo:
The braces should cost less than $.50 each, or about $3 per 12 foot section. I’m still toying with the idea but I’m thinking about trying it on a small section of fence to see what it looks like.
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.
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:
Horses are very curious creatures
Horses think almost anything can be food, including hammers, drills, nails (yikes!), fence wood and of course fingers
It’s hard to use a hammer when horse nostrils are 2 inches from the handle
Although fence-mending would be easier with two people, it would be much easier with three. Think rodeo clown.
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.
We’ve been fence-mending a few times now. Here are our other posts about mending fences: