How to Fence a Horse

I’m really good at daydreaming.

Like, if you need someone to just sit there and daydream, I’m your man.  Or girl.  I guess woman?

Eh, whatever.  If you need someone to daydream, pick me!  I’m super good at that sort of stuff.

But real life stuff?

I mean, it’s one thing to say “One day I’m gonna have a great big horse who is allllll mine, and I’m gonna get up in the morning and look out my bedroom window and see him grazing in the fields….”

Only now it’s for real.




That’s a screenshot of what is going to be my new backyard.  Actually, the yard is even bigger than that, but that’s the area that I get to do what I want with, for Caspian. We are going to have funds from the sale of the house to fence it in, and also build a run-in and an area to compost manure.

Speaking of the sale of the house, I think we have someone.  We still have to pass inspection, and even if we do pass inspection we will still be in our current house for a couple of months because escrow takes a while right now..

But I think this thing is actually going to happen.  We have found a house we all agree on, they’ve accepted our offer (contingent on the sale of our house), we found a buyer for the new house, and I might have my pony in my yard before summer.

It’s one thing to daydream…. it’s another to actually sit down and do it for real.

“Yaaaay!  I get a horse in my backyard!  Oh. Wait…. Uh, how do you safely house a horse in your backyard?”

I’ve decided to go with 5 foot no-climb horse fence with a strand of hot wire on the inside, but what kind of posts do I use? The t-posts or the wood ones? How many feet of fencing will I need? How many posts per feet of fence?  How far down do you sink the posts? How big of a sacrifice area do I make?  I’d really like to plan it out so that it can house two horses eventually – I see two horses in my future at some point, so there’s no sense doing it twice.


The back 2/3 of the pasture is slightly sloped – less than it looks here, but still something to take into account.

Do I put the sacrifice area at the bottom, since it’ll be muddy anyways?  Do I put it at the top, and then have the pasture be sloped?  Do I just do long paddocks with shelters, and then one big turn out area? The rule is one horse per acre, but they never say how best to make that work.

I mean, in a perfect “I have all the space and all the money” I would do a gorgeous paddock paradise setup, but all the ones I’ve seen online require a ton of fencing.  Fencing costs money, and I’m not sure we can swing that.

Also, just to make things more complicated, I think I want to include a small riding area somewhere, so there’s a safe place for the kids to ride without having to trailer anywhere.  Of course, if I do that the amount of pasture I have to work with is even smaller.

Do I cut back on the pasture or the sacrifice area, or forgot the riding area?  Where would I put the imaginary riding area – at the bottom, or at the top?  Do you cap wood posts? What do you set your posts and/or t-posts in to keep them stable and sturdy? What kind of electric fence should I get?  Where do I store the hay?



Can I just go back to daydreaming about the pony in my backyard, without having to do so much math, please?



Yes, I understand that my “complaining” is the very essence of #FirstWorldProblems


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14 thoughts on “How to Fence a Horse

  1. I say use the same area as a sacrifice area and riding area. Keep the sacrifice area closest to your horse shelter. I like wooden posts for non-climb but eventually they rot, no matter how they are treated. If you use T-posts everything starts to sag – ask me how I know! A board along the top of the wire with the wire attached to the board will extend the life of the non-climb almost indefinitely; no board, even with a hot wire above the non-climb, means sagging, then a growing space where eventually some horse will stick its head through and squish the non-climb down, ruining it. Plan carefully regarding gate positions and double-check that they aren’t in a lowish spot. Don’t skimp on corner posts and bracing. And have a great time planning! Congrats!

  2. Agree with Lola and Lucy, sacrifice as riding area. Definitely in the high dry area, don’t want shelters in wet muddy spots. Never thought of how deep to sink posts as a problem 🙂 wood posts go as deep as the auger goes. About chest high once they are set, T posts go in until the T is under ground. No need to cap wood posts and setting straight into the ground will suffice. Can pour cement around the base but it only needs to be so sturdy, your horse shouldn’t be crashing into the fence, and it can cause difficulty once the post rots off and needs replaced. They all will, eventually, good creosote treated posts help. Dividing the pasture would help with a rotation to allow grass to grow back.
    You really need that second horse, I saw Forever Morgans was looking for a foster out your way! 😉

  3. We built a big run in and use about 25-30% of it as hay storage (blocked off from the horses of course!). Round bales we store outside the horse area.
    Agree with using combo riding area/sacrifice area if you have any limitation on space. And think about drainage, if there are any areas water tends to collect. My horses are big (16 & 17 hands) and what I would consider moderate keepers. I have found they really need closer to 2 acres each or a really solid rotation plan to keep them from destroying their pasture. We did concrete for the corner wood posts of our fence but otherwise sank the rest as deep as the auger would go.
    Do you know what your hay plan is going to be? Not sure how many months of the year you’ll have to feed hay. Here in Minnesota I plan for almost 6 months of the year since spring/fall there’s a chunk of time where they need hay supplementation. I usually plan for 1.5-2% of their body weight in hay & that’s fine me well. If you did round bales, need to think about how to move them. We use those hay nets for them & it nearly elimates hay wasting.

    Rather than having one big pasture, I have really liked having it split into two pastures. Not only for rotation purposes, but one of my two suffered a permanent (freak) leg injury this year & cant be in with his rowdy buddy any longer. It was a life saver to be able to keep them in separate pastures without having to put up a bunch more fence.

  4. Gates should attach to galvanized steel posts in concrete, otherwise gates will sag because horses and people like to lean on them. Wood is pretty, and temporary. We have a gorgeous 3 rail wooden fence along the street and we’ve already had to replace one post that just disintegrated, though it was treated. Wood fences are so pretty, but need a lot of work compared to tposts. If you go with wood, I found it was really important that the rails were attached to the posts with screws, and not nails. Screws keep everything together. But wood, in the PNW and Germany, rots so fast.

    We spaced our tposts 3 meters apart because we are vain and they look prettiest that way. I’ve never seen a tpost sag, unless it was a corner that wasn’t supported by a diagonal, of course. Our tposts are 2 meters tall before putting into the ground.

    Isn’t it awesome to plan this, your dream? You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll love it. Trees falling on your fence are inevitable, but hopefully your neighbors are responsible and will remove their trees from your fence.

    I do what Jen does, and divide the pasture in half in Winter, but that is because I have no tractor so I have to spread the manure by hand every other day or so. Half of it is easier to walk at once.

    I loved the popcorn kernel thing! Oh man I miss popcorn!

  5. I haven’t forgotten my promise to write a “fencing” post for you. Maybe I can collect some photos today before the sn*w hits.

    Here’s a few points:

    We used railroad ties for the paddock and the corners because they are huge, heavy, and will probably outlive me. They are also toxic, so if your horse (or any horse you will ever aquire) is a beaver, don’t go there. Digging post holes for those required a (rented) gas-powered post hole digger, and that sucker is HEAVY. Unless the Bean has been weight lifting, you’ll need help, because a nursing mom shouldn’t be horking those things around. Wooden (treated) fence posts are a lighter weight alternative. These must be set in concrete or they will tilt in a year. And as lytha says, they rot faster than you will believe.

    We used (capped) t-posts for all the fence posts between the corners. They last 20+ years and I can (and did) pound them in myself. I used 7-ft posts, and planted them 2 feet down, and 8 feet apart. (You can use the post itself as a space measure as you walk along).

    With the small amount of space you have to work with, the entire thing can be considered a “sacrifice” area, especially if you put two horses on it. Prepare to invest money every year for fresh hogsfuel!

    Not trying to be a downer, honestly. However, underestimating the long-lasting damage to soil from overgrazing and chopping by hooves is super common here. I’ll get photos, I promise!

  6. Consider a Paddock Paradise system. Get the book!! Cheaper to set up and allows for a lot of different options.
    Riding ring and sacrifice area do not go together.
    Sacrifice area horse keeping will ruin your riding footing.
    Sacrifice area should be attached to a shelter, big enough for two horses. Another shelter/box stall plus or next to your tack shed/hay shed for emergency separation if ill or injured. You can store feed cans and cedar rest in it most of the time so that you don’t accidentally fill it with a pony.
    Pipe panels are an investment to consider for the sacrifice area and for any fence lines that would allow access to roads or other dangerous areas. They are easy to reconfigure. You install with ‘drive posts’ (8 foot pipe posts) every other panel. With a hand post driver you can put them in yourself or hire a man with a post driving machine. We have no climb wire with T posts and braced with wooden posts every third post for one property line, pipe panels for another, black plastic mesh (horse fencing product) on our pasture/turn out, pipe panels for the corrals (sacrifice areas), arena, round pen and three rail wood wherever the horses don’t tend to challenge the fence or where there is no danger on the other side.

    Consider having another equine right away. Foster a rescue or allow a friend to board with you. Horses do not want to live alone.

  7. New commenter (not new reader!), I don’t want to overwhelm you since everyone else has already given great advice, but I haven’t seen this type of fence mentioned: welded oil pipe. I have no idea how easy it would be for you to get, but it makes an incredibly long-lasting, low-maintenance, durable fence. We bought a property that was fenced partially with it, and are contemplating replacing the rest of the fence with the same stuff. Currently it’s only our eight corners (two pastures) that have. The fence has been there 20 years and there is ZERO warping, because steel pipes. Anyway, just throwing that out there. I can send you pictures if you like 🙂

  8. SO FREAKING AWESOME!!!! If I may…a bit of barn building advice…build a tack room, even if you are doing a run in shelter. Have a room exclusively devoted to tack (and medical supplies, and whatever). Doesn’t have to be big (my first one was 6×8), but to have everything in one place and organized makes your life SO much easier!!!

  9. Ok, so granted I am doing this in NC, but other than our stupidly hot summers, many things will be the same. Our property came with terrible fence, in fact I may do a post about just that. But my favorite fence is the no climb on T posts. I prefer to have the widest electric tape I can find as my top “rail.” My woven wire is some wierd height like 40 inches, and then I have a gap of 3 or so inches to the top rail. I love this fence! It is safe, no one wants to jump it, and my guys can see it in bad light at fast speeds.

    If I could I would make your scarifice the same as your riding area. That way as you spend money to improve the footing ( money well spent) you are also goving your self a safe space to ride. Locating it near a barn or run-in could even provide you with electricity for an LED floodlight, which would extend your horse time in the dark winter months.

    I have 2 horses, a mule, and a mini donkey on about 4 acres worth of horse land. It is a tight fit, but our biggest issues are the amount of cleared land for grass, and the amount of shade needex to make 100+ summers bareable. The horses have plenty of space to move around and do happy horse things.

  10. I commented before, but I left out the very first thing to do! Check with your county, state, and other local authority on requirements for fencing.
    In some locations (I’m in one) the perimeter fence must meet certain requirements to be considered legal. Electric fencing doesn’t meet the requirement here. And if your critter gets out and causes injury or damage and your fence isn’t legal you are liable for TRIPLE the actual damages!

  11. First time commenting! I live in the Fraser Valley, so I get the PNW issues. A few suggestions – check requirements for your perimeter fence and make sure you’re up to code. Then use hot wire and capped t posts to divide the pasture space farther if you want to rotate through the space. They will eat it all down to nothing, which quickly turns to mud if given the chance.

    Build storage into the back of your shelters for feed/blankets/tack. Saves you from dragging it through the mud and rain. And storage is glorious.

    If you go with wood posts, cut the tops off at an angle. This stops water from pooling on top, which will rot them out from the center. Also recommend wrapping the no climb fencing around a round wooden top rail. Having the top rail stops the no climb from sagging and wrapping the wire around the wood stops them from imitating beavers. But the costs do add up!

    If you’re planning paddocks with shelters as the sacrifice area I recommend them on the high ground or they’ll be hock deep in mud before long. Hogs fuel helps. Almost everyone where I live uses crusher dust in their paddocks now. It’s a lot more expensive but it lasts a lot longer and doesn’t turn to mud. It’s also kinda hard on them, especially if they have to lie down on it. Expect stiff horses and pressure sores on fet locks and hocks. I like having hogs fuel in the shelter. If it’s not exposed to the elements it lasts a long time. And it gives them somewhere dry and cushy to lie without having to worry about replacing bedding all the time.

    There’s more, but I’ve already rambled on way too much!

    I’ve run several barns of varying sizes and would be happy to share more tips if you’re curious!

  12. We rubber mat our shelters and don’t use bedding. They have a slight slope to the ground inside, install the rubber mats over base rock (crushed granite) and nail the mats down into the ground with 12 inch nails. That sounds dangerous but the nails don’t come out at all. If you have a slope and don’t nail the mats down they will shift and slide down hill. If your flooring is perfectly flat you don’t need to nail them but it doesn’t drain either. Our horses lie on the mats which is much more forgiving than the rock or gravel and easier to clean than deep bedding. If you put bedding in your shelters the horses will come inside to urinate and you will be doing lots more cleaning and mucking out inside the shelters.

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