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Central Carolina's

Equestrian Quarterly

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Modern Fencing...

   We're not big on the latest fads or or fancy new-tech ways to do what traditional approaches have always accomplished just fine. But fences for horse pastures have always been problematic. Wooden fences look great and are fairly safe, but are high maintenance and horses tend to push them down. Smooth wire isn't as bad as barbed wire, but can still cut horses up. Section wires are bad to snag horseshoes (a pet peeve of mine, naturally), and can get crushed out of shape pretty easily. Electrified wire is handy, but hard to see and easily broken. Vinyl fencing is pricey, and horses will lean across it.
   The combination of a wooden fence with hot-wire to keep the horses from pushing against it used to be the best available fence I knew of. But it isn't cheap to build. And it requires a lot of fence post holes to be dug, which is a huge problem in this rock-hard Stanly County ground.
   A fairly recent addition to the fencing materials available has been the various types of electrifiable tapes. Essentially these are ribbons of synthetic webbing with metal strands woven-through to carry electric charge. These products are sold as "temporary" fencing for pasture division, and come in several widths and colors from different companies. (For liability reasons, I don't think any new product is going to be promoted as a perimeter barrier in this day and age.)
   We tested "hot tape" as dividing fences for four years back at the old Reedy Creek farm. We selected a half-inch, UV-resistant tape with stainless threads. The relatively narrow web was selected because it would be less effected by strong winds than the wider tapes. We had heard reports that the tape lost its "shock" over time, which may have been due to the tarnishing of the copper threads in some brands, so we chose stainless steel. We also selected white tape for high visibility.
   At Reedy Creek, we installed the tape with the special tape insulators on wooden posts. It turned out that the special insulators were fragile and had a short field life. But the half-inch tape also turned out to work very well in standard hot-wire insulators. We found the tape to be very durable (Anne's addle-brained appaloosa bounced off it a few times), easy to repair, quick and relatively inexpensive to install. It still carried a potent shock after four years, although its ability to carry current over long distances was questionable.
   When designing the fences for Prophets Thumb, the tape had proven itself to be the material of choice. Not only was it reliable, durable, and relatively inexpensive, it's light weight meant that it could be safely spanned over longer distances between posts. We chose steel t-posts instead of wood, which meant they could be driven into the ground without any post holes having to be dug. (A real advantage with this rocky Stanly County ground.) These t-posts create a danger of horses being stabbed by the rough metal post tops, but this was solved by the application of domed plastic caps which also serve as insulators. A second snap-on insulator was placed low on each post. A strand of tape was run along the top insulators. A second strand was run along the bottom insulators. Third and fourth strands were run zig-zagging from top to bottom insulators creating an "X" between each pair of posts. (This created lots of connection points between the strands to insure that all share the electric charge.) A strand of highly conductive aluminum wire was added along the bottom insulators to make sure a good charge got carried to the farthest corners of the fence, and and aluminum strand was run up from it to connect to all four tape strands every hundred yards or so.

The electrified tape arrangement employed at Prophets Thumb.

   Naturally, the deer crashed into the new fences several times before they got used to them being here. But the damage was minimal, and easily repaired. Since then, we've had some trees and branches fall on the fences, and repairs amounted to moving the tree, rehanging and tightening the tape, then splicing the aluminum carrier wire back together. The fence has withstood severe windstorms and ice buildups with no real trouble.
   The huge Columbus Day flood (see Autumn Comes In With A Vengeance) ripped the fences up pretty badly. But the tape actually didn't break anywhere. It was merely stripped off the posts and drug across the pasture. I was able to recover it and restore the fences without any replacement material expenses. A wooden or horse-wire fence would've had to have been rebuilt from scratch.
   All in all, the modern material fencing system we implemented has surpassed our expectations.

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