An Amateur’s Experience in Paddock Planning and Creation PART 1

In 2018 we had nothing for horses at our property. We purchased our home in December 2017 when the ground was frozen. We had the winter to ponder, plan, and prepare ourselves.

INITIAL PLANNING: VISUALIZING AND WALKING THE PROPERTY

After discussions with my friends I decided I wanted to incorporate some of the wooded area if at all possible. Not only to expand the size of the paddocks but also to give the horses places to explore. Zac and I walked the property together several times to get a visual idea of what we were working with. As we walked I could see how some trees could lend themselves toward the fence-line. I wanted to use tree trunks for fence posts and corners to add stability. Not everyone understood my vision at first but when all was said and done they came to appreciate it.


RESEARCH: CHOOSING THE MATERIALS

After several walks and talks I hit the computer to do some research. I wanted to know what was available and how to properly install everything. I was on a serious budget and I knew I was planning to go with electric of some kind.

In a perfect world I would have started from the beginning with poly rope, which is among the safest of electrical fencing. I already knew to stay away from smooth wire fencing as I’ve seen first-hand hat can happen; a farm I once worked on had a mare with a severe laceration to her flank after she attempted to jump the fence.

Besides poly rope and smooth-wire, a few other options I had were poly wire and poly tape fencing. Ultimately I chose poly wire for it’s price. It was affordable and I knew Blade would respect it. I planned that in time the poly wire would be replaced with a higher quality fencing material.


Another conversation I had with my friends and with members of one of the horse-y was how many strands to use and whether I wanted to charge all of them. I have heard from everyone. Some people do one strand. Some do five. Some charge everything. Some only charge two of the strands. The combinations were endless.

I chose to plan for four strands of electric poly wire fencing, and only the top and second wires would be charged. This would provide good visibility to the fencing yet save the electric solar battery half the power. The top wire is important to prevent the horses leaning on it. I chose the skip the bottom wire in case the plants grow up faster than we can weed-whack. The second wire up gets charged to prevent the horses leaning too far under to get any grass on the other side of the fence.


I also had to decide on fence posts and fittings. This took a lot of time to decide on. There were step-in posts, metal rods, T posts, wooden posts. Then I had to worry about corners. Was I using high tensile fencing? Did I have to anchor my corners? I hemmed and hawed for several weeks.

I decided to make my gate posts and corner posts using either trees or wood posts. The rest of the fencing would be done with T-posts and topped with protective caps.

Finally I needed to figure out how to charge the fencing. This was ultimately an easy decision. Though solar is less reliable it was the best option for us. If I wanted to use an AC charger I’d have to run wire all the way from our garage; meaning across the backyard and over the stream (NOT ideal).


RESEARCH: PLANNING AND PURCHASING MATERIALS

I had a rough idea on what I wanted but preparing to buy was the next task. I needed to know HOW to do it….and HOW MUCH to buy.

We had walked the land several times but we needed to know exactly how big these paddocks were going to be. How many feet do we need to buy? How many posts? Clips? Gates?

To begin I got a rough estimate of the perimeter. You could use conventional measuring tools or you could do what I did and naavigate to Google Earth. Using Google Earth I found our address and switch to satellite view. I looked for landmarks and indicators of what we saw in our on-foot planning sessions. I right clicked on the map where I planned to place our gate, in the box that opened I selected “Measure Distance.” This feature allows you to plot several points and estimate a distance. I did this for the perimater of our first paddock. It came out to 775 feet, but I rounded up to 800.

I plotted the perimeter of our second paddock; 675 feet; I rounded up to 675. Since I chose to run 4 strands I multiplied the total perimeter by four; 800ft of paddock 1 + 675ft of paddock 2…1475ft (Lets make it 1500). Then 1500ft * 4= 6000ft of poly wire needed to fence both paddocks with 4 strands of polywire fencing.

According to most of the fencing guides a good spacing of T posts is approximately 10 feet. I purchased an even 150 posts so I knew I would have a few extra “just in case.” My use of trees lent itself to leaving me with several extra T-posts that I was very happy to have later on when I designed the third paddock. Since I bought T-posts I made sure to buy 3 insulators and 1 cap for each post (The cap has a place to run the top wire through so it also acts as an insulator.. I also purchased a couple bags of the screw-in wood post insulators to tap into the trees.

Based on my design I knew I needed 10 wooden posts. I could use trees for some of the corners in the first paddock but no so much with the second. I was planning on 2 paddocks so I needed two gates.

While thinking of the gates I decided to connect the two charged wires across the gate entrance in addition to the metal gate. Some people choose to bury the wires but I was glad to have the extra protection when a buddy sour horse wanted to push though the metal gate. By having the charged section the horses can’t lean on the metal gates. In preparation to have the two metal gates and extended electric gates, I purchased 4 anchors and 4 handles; you can buy electric gate kits but find this works just fine for us.

THE ELECTRIC FENCE CHARGER

It took me a while to learn about fence chargers and decide on the right one. I took many factors into consideration:

  • My geography: Living in New York we don’t get as much sun as a farm closer to the equator. That means our charging times are much less even on sunny days.
  • Access to sun: Fortunately I found a good spot to put a solar charger that is not at all blocked from he the sun. Though we are north the charger gets all the sun we can.
  • Fence perimeter: Obviously I need to know how long the fenceline runs.
  • Number of charged strands: I decided to run four strands of fencing but only charge two. I multiply the perimeter of the fence by two.
  • Number of actual wires within each strand of polywire. You might be surprised to know that each strand of polywire contains several charged wires. This helps conduct the electricity and if one wire breaks, you have several more to keep the circuit flowing. My polywire has 6 metal wires. I multiplied the perimeter of the fence by the two strands I charge, by the six wires in each polywire strand.

MATHTIME: The perimeter of my fence we rounded up to 1500ft. I am charging two strands…so that makes 3000 feet. There are 6 wires per strand in my polywire fence..my total number of coverage needed was 18,000ft. One mile is 5,280 feet and I needed about 3.4miles. I could probably have been fine with a 5 mile electric fence charger. Since I live in the north with limited sunlight (AND I planned on making more fenclines in time) I decided to round up by quite a bit; I bought a 10 mile charger. This will guarantee enough power but also allow me to expand into a third paddock over time.

With the charger I also bought three grounding rods and a grounding rod kit.

Everything is seemingly small but they all added up. The cost of fencing was several thousand dollars (and I chose the cheap options).


ONWARD TO GETTING IT DONE

Once I had a plan and I had purchased all the supplies, the physical labor was set to begin. Stay tuned next week for the second half of the story where I will show you exactly how we installed everything to create the paddocks our horses enjoy today.

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