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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Fence Safety Survey

Livestock Update, April 1999

Larry A. Lawrence, Extension Animal Scientist, Horses, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

The Equine Research Center in Guelph, Ontario, Canada recently published the results of a fence safety survey. The study revealed some interesting information on fencing types and materials.

One hundred and eighty horse owners responded. Seventy-three percent of the respondents reported no horses were injured within the past year. However, 27% reported fence-related injuries. Approximately one half of the horses injured required veterinary treatment.

Barbed wire, high tensile and woven or welded wire fences accounted for 63% of injuries out of the total number of injuries. Between 33 and 60% of the injuries on these fences were serious and required veterinary attention. The types of injuries reported included deep lacerations, some tearing of muscles and broken bones. One type of wire fence proved to be very safe. Diamond mesh wire had a 6% injury rate with 100% of those injuries being minor and not requiring a veterinary call.

Post and board and post and rail were the most popular fencing materials used. Post and board fences accounted for 10% of the injuries reported. Post and rail accounted for 13% of the injuries. Although the post and rail had more injuries, only 9% of those injuries required veterinary attention. Injuries on the post and board fence were more serious with almost 40% requiring veterinary intervention. Many of the reported injuries involved horses running into the fence or kicking boards that then splintered.

Rigid polyvinylchloride (PVC) plank or "rail" fences appeared to be safe, with no injuries reported. Few injuries were reported with plastic and wire electrical tape and all of those injuries were minor. However the survey indicated that running a strand of electric plastic tape on board or wire fences did not reduce the number of major injuries occurring on those fence types.

The authors summarized the study by stating that although the number of returned surveys was small, some valuable management tips might be obtained from the results. Many of the horses were injured when a new horse was turned out with an established herd. Fighting and running horses being chased were part of the history of many of the injuries. Over crowded pastures also contributed to horses running into fences.

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