By Judy O'Brien Van Put
SULLIVAN COUNTY March 26, 2002 In last weeks Horse Talk I related my frightening experience of getting a call at 6:30 a.m. that my horses were out of their fence. Despite the fact that all three galloped up the center of Old Route 17 a normally busy road we were able to recover them and lead them home safely with no incidents or accidents.
In our case, it was not really a faulty or broken fence, but perhaps some forethought about how we attached the board fence to the barn would have prevented this occurrence.
When spring arrives with its warm sunny days and strong breezes, and green grass is starting to push its way upward, horses seem to have a knack for testing fence, finding weak spots, and escaping to glorious freedom. Heres a simple plan for a safety inspection that shouldnt take too much time, but can be priceless in time spent preventing a problem from occurring later.
Start by walking along your fence, and make careful observations as to the condition of boards or wire. You might want to carry along some flagging to mark areas that youll need to return to in order to make necessary repairs, or a pencil and paper to record these problem spots.
Walk along the side of the fence where the fence board or wire is attached. This is where youll notice most problems that might occur.
Pay careful attention to your fence posts or stakes are they straight? Do they give too much when you try to jiggle them with your hand? In some instances, the post or stake may just need to be reseated or pounded in or some shims added. Make sure the post isnt rotted or broken, however, as a 1,000 lb. horse will exert more pressure than a shake of your hand. In our instance, the first post to support our board fence was a 2x4, nailed to the side of the barn. In retrospect, we should have dug in a 6x6 post as we did all along the rest of the fence. It was this 2x4 that popped off the barn when one of the boards was broken.
Check each board for protruding or missing nails, and fix appropriately. By carrying a hammer, you can do these spot repairs immediately; and if you bring nails along with you, you can replace boards that are missing nails, or whose nails have become unusable, saving even more time. Take care to dispose of nails in your pocket or a can you carry, so they dont wind up in the pasture and get stepped on!
Boards that have been chewed severely, cracked boards and broken ones will obviously need replacing. Here is where your flagging or pencil comes in handy.
For wire fence, carry along a wire stretcher and fence staples. Loose or sagging wire can be stretched and stapled tight. Broken wire needs replacing and should be flagged; small broken sections of box wire can be repaired.
Electric fence needs a bit more care be sure that each wire is hung with the proper tension, according to the manufacturers directions. Make sure that the proper hardware is used, again consulting the manufacturers instructions. If any electric fence is down near a water source, such as a stream, puddle or waterer, turn the power off immediately and do the repair. This is also the case if you notice tree branches or any debris that is lying on the wire. These can ground out the wire, and cause it to lose charge.
Lastly, check your gates. Look for sharp edges, protruding nails, latches that dont work property, and be sure the gate swings freely.
If you suspect theres a problem with your fence, be sure your horses are secured in the barn or shed, or if possible, put them in another pasture while you do the inspection and repairs. Youll breathe much easier after you know your fence is in good working condition!