My horse pushes the fence, trying to get out. How can I stop this behavior?

Horse behind electric wire fenceQuestion: I have a 4 year old Belgian/quarter horse cross that insists on going through the fence. We have both field fence and barbed wire fences on our place and he doesn’t care which one he tears up. He just walks up to the fence and starts pushing and walking up the wire until he pushes in over. He is built like a tank and doesn’t mind cutting himself in the process. There is nothing for him to get into on the other side of the fence, all the feed is in bins. He just gets out and stands on the other side. Any advice. We tried popping him in the behind with a bb gun when we see him pushing but it doesn’t seem to phase him.

Answer from April Reeves: Your horse does not see the fence as a barrier, and it’s likely because it’s not strung tight enough. Once a horse feels any give, it’s in their nature to resist it. Remember, horses are nomadic, and have an instinct to walk. Humans put them in unnatural confinement and expect them to act according to OUR rules – which rarely happens.

One thing that will happen, and I will put money on it, is that he will get seriously hurt one day to the point of big vet bills or euthanasia. I’m not being mean – I’m just being real. No horse should be behind wire, especially barbwire. It’s a matter of time.

He is likely going to try harder now that he has experienced the pain of BB gun pellets. You have added an additional reason for him to get out quickly.

Horses have an incredible memory, far better than we believe them to have. While he moves along the fence line, he will retain the memory of BB shots, the sting of them, and will associate this with the paddock. Please stop doing this – they do lodge deep within under the skin, and many will heal over and hold the pellet inside, causing all sorts of problems down the road. Also, if you are caught the fines are heavy.

What I look for are the reasons for this behavior:
Is the confined area too small for him?
Does he spend too much time with nothing to do?
Does he have enough to eat?
Is he alone?
Are there other horses far enough away that he can hear and smell?
Does he have a track record of breaking fences before you got him?
Is the grass greener on the other side – literally?

I think at this point, even if you did change the fence (go from wire to wood), feed the horse enough, and gave him a buddy, he will still try to break out.

This problem is one of the few that cannot be sorted out with Natural Horsemanship techniques or groundwork. And it needs to be taken care of fast.

Once horses push fences, your only recourse is to electrify the fence. There are really good solar units for an affordable price available today, and they work well. They are also portable so you can take them if you leave, and move them around.

All you need is a single strand that will send him a message to stay back. Don’t place it on the top strands – drop it down to where it hits him somewhere between the chest and the middle of his neck. If you put it too high – I have seen horses try to duck under and push the fence.

Once you have completed that, make sure he is fed well and exercised. If you can find him a buddy, in the form of a small pony, mini or goat, go for it. We have two elderly horses that have mini friends in with them. Just make sure the fence is adequate at the lower levels or they will get hurt too.

I have seen people try almost anything but electric fences, only to find their loving horse ripped to pieces one morning struggling to get out. It is an added expense, but your choice is to pay now or pay later. Please do this as quickly as you can.

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