Temporary Fencing

One of the many reasons to have miniature horses is that they can help with the lawn mowing. We don’t have a lot of grassy areas on our little farm, but we do have a few and we thought it might be good if the horses could get out and graze a little. I’ve never been a fan of tying horses out or hobbling to keep them from roaming where they’re not supposed to. After checking several sources on line for temporary fencing, I decided I might just as well make my own.

I needed something lightweight that could be used in a variety of circumstances. I might want to take one or both of the horses to a festival or farmers market, enclose a temporary grazing area that can easily be moved, set up side panels in the back of the pickup for transporting the horses, separate stallion from mares and foals, change the size or configuration of their regular pen to allow grass to grow in certain areas, etc.

One finished panel – the photo angle makes it looks a little like it’s taller on the ends than in the middle but it’s not. 

I settled on a fairly simple design of a six-feet long, three-feet tall panel made of plastic pipe and fittings, figuring that if I made eight of them, I would have complete flexibility in how I might use them. I used black ABS pipe and fittings because it was slightly less expensive than the white PVC pipe and fittings, but either would work. I also found that buying “contractor packs” that included 10 pieces for the fittings and packs of 5 10-foot pipes saved a little on the overall cost. To get the height I wanted and still have a secure fence that the horses couldn’t squeeze through, I went with four bars on each panel.

Construction was easy – after cutting the pipes to length (32″ inches on the rails and 7″ inches on the uprights between fittings), it was just a matter of sanding the cut edges, applying ABS cleaner followed by the ABS glue, and assembly of all the pieces. Having said that, there are a few tips I would share about the process. If you haven’t worked with plastic pipe, be aware that the glue sets really fast and really hard, so have your assembly plan ready. I found it easiest to do all the sanding in one sitting. Then just before assembly, apply the cleaner to all the sanded edges for one panel. Get all your pieces for that panel where you can grab them quickly. Be sure you put down some sort of tarp or work in an area where a few blobs of glue won’t matter.

It’s a messy job no matter how careful you try to be. It helps to have something to lean the partially assembled panels on once you get the rails in but be careful that you don’t get the gooey wet glue on anything if you lean it on something.

Since I was using black pipe, I also used black glue, and it really shows up wherever it lands and trust me, it will land where you least expect it. Wear gloves and old clothes when you do this. After a few trials and errors, the most efficient assembly order seemed to be: 1) put caps on both legs; 2) build one end upright at a time, starting with the capped leg – make sure your openings are aligned perfectly for insertion of the rails because there is no going back once the glue sets (almost instantaneously); 3) build the middle upright with the t-cap on top and bottom; 4) insert one set of rails into one end upright; 5) cap the rails with the middle upright; 5) insert the second set of rails into the middle upright; 6) cap the second set of rails with the second end upright. Be sure you’re tapping everything in fully as you go to seat all the pieces properly; otherwise, you end up cockeyed on your end product. It may still function as a panel, but it doesn’t look as nice. I finished four panels in about three hours total from start to finish.

Once I had four panels assembled, I wanted to test them with the horses to make sure all my theories about how well they would work were accurate. Not knowing how the horses would react to the panels, I fed them and while they had their heads in their buckets and watched me from the corners of their eyes, carried all four panels into the pen and set up them up into a six-foot square, leaving one corner open. I used bungee cords, the kind with the little balls on the ends, to attach the panels to each other. So far, so good. Java couldn’t wait to check out the weird new thing in the pen and walked away from her food to go sniff it carefully. She moved all the way around the outside of it, touching it gently with her soft little lips, then went into the square, walked around the inside of it, shrugged (as much as a little horse can), and went back to her food, not terribly impressed with my handiwork.

Peaberry finished his meal before checking it out. We all have our priorities, and his is always food above anything else. He immediately grabbed the rails in his teeth (he is a boy, after all) and tried to give the panel a good shake. It stayed upright and connected so this was a good test.

Checking it out from all sides.

He went inside, then outside, then inside, then outside, fascinated with the whole thing, biting the rail every now and then just to see if it was something else he could eat. Then he got to the bungee cords. While Java had completely ignored these, Peaberry decided that yanking the little blue ball and watching it snap back into place was a great new game. It took him all of thirty second to destroy the first little blue ball and snap himself in the face (didn’t stop him from going after a second one). I think I’ll have to find a different way to attach the panels to each other.

I closed him in completely to see if he would mind the small pen. Nope. He stuck his head through the rails and was able to get it back through easily so the spacing seems to work well. I suppose you could make a tighter rail spacing if you don’t want any heads sticking through at all, but I wanted to make sure that they couldn’t get their heads partially stuck so I like this spacing. The height seems right also.

The ground here is not level so an added benefit of these panels is their adaptability to uneven terrain.

Although he was a little puzzled by being put into this small corral, he didn’t seem particularly upset. When I let him out, I began taking off the bungees so he didn’t mess with them and two of the panels clattered to the ground. Neither horse flinched. That kind of rattle would have sent most full-size horses scattering, but they just took it in stride. Once the panels hit the ground, they walked over and through them like experienced dressage horses over cavaletti bars. Miniature horses just seem to be calmer overall than full-size horses – nothing seems to get them too excited. Except more food.

With a few refinements to the connectors, I think I’ve got a workable temporary fence that will give us lots of flexibility and enable us to expand the little horses’ world a bit. They weigh almost nothing and cost very little (relatively speaking) to make. With eight panels, I can make a 12’x12′ enclosure, a decent round pen, or stretch 48′ of fence.

Can I come out now?