Mending fences – and maintaining them

I’ve a fondness for the saying that strong fences make good neighbours.  If you protect you and yours and look after them as best you may, you can open the gate to others when you wish and also keep them at bay when you need to.  And there’s a good reason why “mending fences” signifies putting things back to rights between friends who have transgressed:  everyone is put back into their rightful place again and order is restored.

Fences that desperately needed mending caused me a lot of trouble this week.

In my last post I described how a loose horse had injected a helping of unwanted drama into my first ride of the year with my horse, Pom.  I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that I later got in touch with the land-owner who was able to reassure me that the black Merens and his field mates, a grey Camarguais and a mule, who had also escaped, had been caught and returned to their field unharmed.

The man who owned the field said the horses belonged to a friend and that they were serial escapees (“frequent flyers”?), which didn’t seem to perturb him unduly.  I found this a dangerously laid-back attitude.  Apart from the damage horses running free could do to themselves or anyone passing on foot, horseback or bike, I dread to imagine the carnage if they ran into a truck, or a family in a car.

The three photos above show the sorts of ideal paddock fencing we’d all love to be able to install for our horses if money was no object.  This is not a wealthy area, but the landowner in question is not short of property and business interests, so I can’t excuse his negligence as a lack of means.  Whatever the case, it’s a false economy if you don’t keep horses in properly fenced fields.  Some horses may be nigh on impossible to contain, but you owe it to your horses and your duty of care to the public to provide the safest fencing you can afford.  An open access track runs beside our fields and so our fences are two wide strands of high-visibility, heavy-duty electric fence, with a reinforced uninsulated wire doubling the lower one to keep the wild boar out, all plugged into the mains. The field where the other horses are kept may be on a quiet lane, but it’s a short distance from a village, which lies close to a road on which lorries run regularly back and forth to a quarry and there’s a continual current of fast-moving traffic.

The fencing the horses escaped through was a single, thin strand of electric wire in front of 2 strands of loose, rusty barbed wire about three feet apart, something like the pic. on the left.  It presented no deterrent barrier at all to the jaunty Merens, who seemed more intent on coming out to play than causing trouble.

(I would like to express thanks to super trainer Katie at her Reflections on Riding WordPress blog who was kind enough to offer a great list of tips on how to deal with just such a situation – reproduced on her latest post – recommended reading for riders of all levels – I’ll try to work out a proper link.)

I’m sure that anyone reading this is most likely a horse lover (if not, you’re in the wrong place!) who wouldn’t dream of putting horses at risk, but it’s always worth reminding yourself to make a regular check round your fences, especially after bad weather, or to check that the hunters and their dogs (or the hunted), or just the careless idiots haven’t been through and broken the fences, or chucked rubbish into the fields – or stolen the battery and transformer as once happened to us.  And I would always be grateful if anyone saw a problem with our fences and let me know.

In a nice ironic twist to our adventure earlier in the week, I ‘phoned to thank the people who I’d flagged down to ask for help.  It turns out I have to be grateful twice over to this couple –  the wife happened be the hospital theatre nurse whose hand I gripped for reassurance when my leg was operated on last March!

About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
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8 Responses to Mending fences – and maintaining them

  1. ptigris213 says:

    I’m sorry to say that many of the horses kept in the US are behind fences like that of your neighbor, not that of the top photos. Were I able to afford the lovely stuff, I would have it. However, my fencing is what is called “horse fence’ or ‘No Climb”. It’s wire, woven into rectangles. Nothing bigger than a rabbit can get it’s head through, nor can a horse put a foot through it. I do know a rabbit can get through it, they do it often. We have a lot of the garden eating beasties here. My neighbor next door ran a line of hot wire on the lowest strand to the ground, to keep his dog from digging a hole under the fence. A rabbit stuck it’s head through, saw the wire, and realizing that the wire was meant to keep him out….tried to snip the wire.
    Zap. One dead rabbit. Neighbor has the power cranked pretty high, I’m sorry to say that while I don’t miss the rabbit, his hot fence has killed robins and even a great horned owl. Sigh. I’m on the fence with this guy (pun intended)-he’s perfectly horrid but every once in a while does something semi decent.
    Sorry to hear the Meren’s owner is so blase about his animals getting out, but he may find out the hard way when his loose horse causes a human to be hurt or killed when it collides with a car.


    • Whatever fencing one uses – and I’d be very happy to have the kind you have, to keep the deer out of the garden! – I suppose all are expensive and non are ever 100% effective, we have to do the best we can, and persuade others likewise. But I loathe barbed wire for livestock, or any, fencing. I have a scar from a childhood accident with a barbed wire fence and it (the wire not the scar, I’m not quite that old) always brings to mind the horrors of trench warfare of WW1. I expect there’s a lot of it to be seen in “War Horse” (not yet released in Europe).


  2. ptigris213 says:

    I shan’t tip you off to anything in that great movie, but yes, there is barbed wire in the movie.

    I, too, hate barbed wire. It’s horrible stuff. You drive through the American West and see dead pronghorn and deer that were entangled while trying to get over it (deer) or under it (pronghorn). They die of starvation or blood loss. Damn the stuff.


  3. rontuaru says:

    I have to say that your last photo is lovely … even if the wire isn’t nice stuff. I grew up on a beef cattle farm and we used lots of barbed wire. It’s not fun stuff to string or repair.

    By the way, I’ve nominated your blog for the Versatile Blogger award. Visit here: to read why I chose your blog and to get the directions on what to do next if you want to play! 🙂


  4. Margaretha says:

    Firstly, thank you very much for following my blog, I am very happy indeed to have found another horse blogger here in the south west of France! so I am definitely following yours. Round here (Gers), a single thin electric line (same as used for cattle) is often used to for fencing, at a height that a horse can just about step over. Although I have never come across loose horses (yet!) riding our stallion out (who is impeccably well behaved but a stallion nevertheless) this definitely is a challenge!


    • Margaretha, I was glad to find you again, having noticed your comment on Anna Blake’s wonderful blog. I was recently in the Gers staying with friends and touring around and wondering if you were still at the Manoir d’Alegria, but could no longer find the site to check the location. I remember following your previous blog and exchanging comments on our Spanish horses a few years ago. If I come back down that way I’d love to look you up! I’m afraid my blog has temporarily run out of steam, but I look forward to continuing to read yours; love your attitude and what you are offering. Bonne continuation!


      • Margaretha says:

        Only had 2 Ha au manoir, bit tight with 4 horses, so we sold up and brought about 12km from there: 7 Ha with 1 Ha lake(and 6 horses – how DID that happen?), so HUGE improvement. Next time you come this way, do stop for a cup of coffee! (at least!) Sadly my beautiful grey Lusitano died of colic last April. xxxM


  5. So sorry to hear that; my lovely old chestnut, Aly was lost to colic just three years ago, still feels so fresh. Look forward to seeing you at your beautiful, new place one day!


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