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Do Electric Fences Stress Horses?
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Do Electric Fences Stress Horses?

Horses are truly majestic creatures. They have been the companions of men for centuries, from the earliest of days when they were used to fight wars to today’s modern world where they are ridden in races and kept as pets.

Horses, due to this partnership that has lasted centuries and generations, have a very unique bond with humans. They can connect with their owner at an emotional level that very few other animals can compete with. Why then, you may ask, do horse owners keep their horses in paddocks lined with electric fences? While your take on the matter could be negative, electric fencing is actually helpful for the horse in many ways. According to a recent study, horses don’t even have any stressful reactions to being kept in an electrically fenced paddock.  

Using Electric Fencing

The first and foremost priority of every horse owner is to keep their animal safe. Using a conventional wooden fence is not wise because horses learn to scratch themselves against these, causing them to sag over time while also causing skin problems and rashes on the horse.

This is where electric fences come in. The main idea behind them is to help the horse stay safe, while horses also learn to stay away from them.

Many people take this to be a negative thing, saying that this causes psychological stress to the horses. That, however, is not the case.

The Experiment

Led by Rupert Bruckmaier from the University of Bern, the experiment sought to find out once and for all whether electric fencing causes an increase in stress levels among horses, as opposed to wooden fencing.

Twenty horses, between ages of 6 and 18 years, were chosen for this study. Each of these horses were placed in four different paddocks. Two of the paddocks measured 12.25 square meters, while two had an area of 36 square meters. Out of each pair, one paddock had a wooden fence while the other had an electric one.

The horses were kept in each paddock for 90 minutes. They were systematically rotated between all paddocks and their behavior was analyzed carefully.

The Results

After analyzing the horses’ heart-rates, as well as using their saliva for cortisol analysis, it was found that electric fencing had no effect on the horses’ stress levels.

It was noted, however, that the horses in the smaller paddocks moved around less often. The ultimate conclusion was that it is not the electricity that causes the horses to have increased stress levels but rather the size of the enclosure they are being kept in.

This research has cleared a lot of misconceptions about keeping horses in electrically fenced enclosures. Horse owners can now peacefully keep their animals in a safe environment without worrying that they may be causing increased mental stress to their companion.  

So, no matter what your take was on electric fencing, now you can be sure that it is not unhealthy for a horse. The thing that matters is to let these majestic creatures roam about freely in large open areas, and not confine them to a congested space.

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. BiologyBrain
    I didn't even realize there was controversy about the psychological aspect of electric fencing. Good to know research has shown that there should be no controvery. I voted, could you read and vote for my most recent post? Thanks!

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