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Down to the Wire

Rebecca Colnar

So you've bought some land and want to move your horses onto it. One of your most important decisions will be what type of fencing to install. With the wealth of fencing systems available on the market, how do you choose? Do you go with tried-and-true options, such as wooden or electric fences? On the other hand, what do the more innovative systems--think wide-woven electric tape or vinyl fencing--have to offer?

Maybe you should choose something that offers the best of both.

Dare Products has an interesting new choice for horse owners. Called "Perfect Fit," the fence consists of vinyl sections that slide over high tensile wire, giving the fence the classic look of a board fence--without the maintenance.

High tensile fencing is a farm-supply staple for cattle producers. Horse owners have quickly followed suit, also enjoying the low cost and low maintenance--benefits they share with their bovine-raising brethren. However, concerns that a horse may suffer serious injury by catching a leg or running into high tensile fence have decreased its popularity.

Enter Dale Marshall.

"I loved the look of a wooden fence, but needed one that was maintenance-free and safe for horses," explains Dale Marshall, inventor of Perfect Fit. "I had a fence that needed to be replaced. I wondered what I could do to lower the cost and maintenance involved with wood, but wanted to keep a design that in profile looked like board-and-rail."

Marshall devised the idea to use high tensile fence as a foundation and designed rails to fasten onto the wire.

"I developed the rail that flags the fence for the animal, yet has strength and durability," explains the Calgary, Alberta, horseman. Marshall designed the system so the vinyl rail is separate from the high tensile wire.

"If they were molded together, the fence would get ripples in it, because wire and plastic expand and contract at different rates," he notes. "The other good feature is if you damage a rail, it's easy to replace." Rails are made of the grade of vinyl used for window exteriors, complete with UV protection.

While installing a high tensile fence isn't simple, neither is it exceptionally difficult. After a little practice, most non-professionals find the job moves along quickly. If you're putting in high tensile, a good post pounder can put in 120 posts per day. Marshall advises placing posts every 12 feet. "You can do farther apart--I even did 16-foot spacing--but 12 works better."

Add to that the time it takes to install Perfect Fit panels themselves. Marshall estimates it took him about four hours to put Perfect Fit along 300 feet of a four-rail fence. Given the length of its expected lifetime, however, it's time well spent.

"If you do a high tensile fence right, it should last for generations," he says.

If you use metal T-posts along with your wood posts, Perfect Fit has a sleeve that snaps together to form a three-inch round post over the T-post.

The cost of Perfect Fit is much lower than a vinyl fence. Dare estimates that the Perfect Fit system costs $3.20 per foot for a four-rail fence; the cost of an installed vinyl fence is about $7.20. A four-wire high tensile fence will cost 32 cents per foot.

Marshall says that the fence seems impervious to mold, mildew, freezing temperatures and wind. The other good news--horses don't like to chew on it.

"I've had my fence up for three years, and it looks great," he says. "These fences will last. When I take a week to put up a fence, I want to make sure the fence is going to last. I don't want to maintain or rebuild the fence every year."

©Southern States Cooperative, Inc., Reprinted from Mane Points with permission of Southern States Cooperative, Inc.