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!