View Full Version : Living Fence...... questions..

Jan. 17, 2010, 02:37 PM
I have a new property and a whooooooooole lot of fencing to do - yay for me :(

I was wondering if I could use a hedge inside the perimeter of the paddocks to
A - help keep the horses off of them
B - for aesthetic reasons,
C - because I love to garden and think it would be purdy :winkgrin:

So it would be 3 rail, post and rail. 5 ft high. I would also use my good friend electricity, on the top rail. The hedge could get as high as the top rail, but I think I would like it only to 4ft. These would be for my grass paddocks, and maaaaaaybe for a strip of my regular paddocks.

Now I am in the PNW, so we can grow a lot of stuff, but what will horses not kill! I was thinking California Lilacs as they are a bit drought resistant and they can handle the rain we get. I heard that some varieties are deer resistant but are they going to turn into the afternoon snack for the horses?

Also do horses eat roses?

Thanks a million!!

Jan. 17, 2010, 02:48 PM
Horses love roses! They don't seem bothered by the thorns much, but the prefer the thornless climbing ones that I mistakenly put on my barn columns. I'm not sure of any type of hedge that wouldn't be eaten and I don't know what varieties are safe, etc. A million years ago I rented a place that had blackberries (bushes) along 1 side of the pasture with no fence. When I moved in I was worried about it and assured that the horses would not eat them or walk through them. They were right! None of my 3 went near them.

Jan. 17, 2010, 02:50 PM
Those "living fence roses" take off and become a plague, as do most living fences, unless diligently controlled and maintained.

Yes, the roses smell heavenly when in bloom, but they are horrendous blood- lettors. Of course if you like riding in full chaps as if in mesquite country, have at it. ;) :lol:

Jan. 17, 2010, 03:35 PM
Mine loved to reach over the front yard fence in Colorado and munch on the Lilacs!

Lady Counselor
Jan. 17, 2010, 04:02 PM
I'll state the obvious first (that I am sure you already know) No yews. Waaayyy too toxic.
In Costa Rica, and lately here at home, I have seen a living fence done where they grow some sort of bush/tree, and then lop off the top. This leaves "posts" that are still alive, at whatever height you desire. I am not sure what bushes here would do well and be nontoxic, but I am sure that there is likely some sort of fast growing bush that's indigenous that would work OK.

Jan. 17, 2010, 06:25 PM
I have hawthorn hedges on part of my land. They work well for me- proving shelter, the horses don't try to go through them, and they provide habitat for wildlife.

Jan. 17, 2010, 11:23 PM
I think some of our less charming native species would be a real problem if you want to recreate an English style agricultural hedge in North America. Back in my college summer job landscaping days I discovered that poison ivy and white faced hornets love to invade rustic hedges. An effective livestock fence requires regular maintenance (involving quaint archaic terms such as laying and pleaching) in which the branches are trimmed and woven back into the hedge. It is, quite frankly, no fun at all to try to trim a hedge when the inhabitants are trying to put you in the hospital.

I did board for a while at a barn where a wild rose hedge had grown over the old wire fencing. The horses were quite happy to eat the roses. Unfortunately, this hedge included the double scourge of hornets and poison ivy. My laid back gelding developed a mortal fear of hornets because he had been stung so many times. In autumn the yellow jackets would get aggressive and territorial, and they'd chase us to the far end of the schooling ring. I also had a perpetual poison ivy rash. I'm highly allergic to it now due to past exposure. Simply grooming and tacking up a horse which has snacked on or brushed up against poison ivy will set me off.

Jan. 18, 2010, 11:08 AM
Stinky, california Lilacs are deer resistant and make a lovely hedge and the horses show little taste for them. They are relatively slow growing though and expensive to buy at any sort of size. Horses will devour roses with relish, but seem to leave the native prairie rose or wild rose alone.
Hawthorne also grows well in the PNW and has attractive berries in winter.
Many people have used thuja (pyramidal cedars or junipers) as a lovely hedge and the horses mainly leave it alone. It can be attractively topiaried or pruned into shapes at the height you require.

Having a hedge growing along a three board fence is a PITA when it comes time for repairs or painting. And twice a year you have to prune it back.

I also live in the PNW and my property edges were all 20 feet thick with blackberry when I moved in. I used a single strand of electric wire inside the blackberry hedge and my horses never tested either. Talk about bloodletters!I have gradually replaced about 3/4 of the blackberries with tearing them out and building real fence, but they still "hold the fort" on the back acre. Every spring about this time I am out there pulling out the new shoots that invade the fence line, and pruning back the old canes that make up the remaining hedge. And yes, I do it this time of year to avoid the ground dwelling wasps and hornets.

Jan. 18, 2010, 11:23 AM
It sounds like a beautiful idea. My horses are partial to my raspberry canes and lilacs. Before you plant, here's a site that lists plants that are toxic to horses:

Jan. 18, 2010, 12:39 PM
Oh yeah, horses LOVE roses. Yum yum.

The cedar type tree/bushes, evergreen type, if they don't eat, they LOVE to rub on them. They make great scratching posts to rub all the mane out.

Privet hedges grow wild here. Horses LOVE them. They become ugly growing sticks. Honey suckle, horses LOVE that also.

I have horses eat blackberries, just the berries. But they love all berries.

Some horses can be destructive, others not. Depends on their boredom, itch factor, mischievousness, and their wanna-have-fun factors.

If you want a beautiful decorative fence, try a solid stacked rock fence. They are beautiful, most certainly would add value. I see those alot in KY and TN, not so much here in 'bama though. I would have one 8' tall all the way around my property if I could afford it. But 15 acres is a bit large to make it worthwhile. It would sure keep out the unwanted guests, like stray dogs, cats, and the dreaded rabbit!

I have found holly bushes horse are not overly fond of them. They don't like to snack on them, run through them, or rub on them. They do make a nice wind break too. Rotundra Holly which is short can be round is a good one, and there are others which grow well too. If they do eat them, they will only be doing the light pruning on the new stuff. So I vote holly bushes. Also you can run the hedge clippers over them to make them look nice. There are many many kinds of holly bushes.

If you use any natural vegetation plantings, make sure they are not toxic to horses. They may rub, or eat them so be aware.

Jan. 18, 2010, 10:03 PM
While I like your idea, I'm wondering if you might need to check your local ordinances. It may say that you are required to have a more 'livestock' type of fencing, ie, boards, wire, etc. to contain your horses.

Where ever I've lived (MN, WI), I'm supposed to 'keep my animals' contained - if a horse gets out, and goes and stands in the middle of the road where a car hits it, I'm the one who pays for damages. I think the 'type' of fencing I had/had not would come into play too.

Jan. 23, 2010, 07:18 PM
COL, that's exactly what info I was looking for! Thanks!!

I had some California Lilacs at my old property, and they are soooo low maintenance watering wise, that I thought that they would be a good choice. And I absolutely love to garden (addicted to making topiaries, LOL), so the 2 or 3 times a year to trim, are done with love (and the occaisonal socialble ;) Properties that are really well put together and landscaped accordingly, make me drool. It is just hard to find plants that are pretty, low maintenance, and somewhat horse proof.

Prices for the the little beggers was shocking. Annnnnnd unfortunately I need a lot of them. I will have to check out wholesale prices...

I would prefer to stay away from Cedars, as I kind of wanted a splash of colour (even if it is just in the spring). But at the end of the day, I am not that picky.

Hawthorne is an interesting choice too. How dense does it get, if it is kept 'in line'? I am really trying to go for the thick dense hedge look.

BLACKBERRY BUSHES are the bane of my existence!!! Last fall I went to town slaughtering and I think I lost half my blood supply and killed a tire on the bobcat.

Now another question..... What type of footing should I use for my track, wood chips, hog fuel, or ?? It will not be galloped on, but maybe a light canter. There is a hill, so will wood be too slick? I really liked the colours in my head - the red'ish of the footing, the green of the hedge and the black lines of the fence.

I am offically insane.... :D

Jan. 24, 2010, 01:11 AM
Also, does anyone know if Boxwoods are poisonous? I am getting conflicting information from my internet search vs gardeners vs real life.

thanks again! :D

Jan. 24, 2010, 01:42 AM
Also, does anyone know if Boxwoods are poisonous? I am getting conflicting information from my internet search vs gardeners vs real life.

thanks again! :D

Eek. Most definitely are poisonous! I've actually never heard anyone say they're NOT. From brief googling it looks like a pound is lethal.



Jan. 24, 2010, 06:51 AM
Is a hedge considered a lawful fence in your state? Check with your insurance company and your extension agent or an ag lawyer.

The purpose of fencing is to keep your livestock in; not to landscape.

You can design windbreaks and hedges to showcase your property and provide shelter - but I'd stop there.

Even if a hedge is a lawful fence, it would take years to grow the impenetrable mass of thicket and briar that would impede livestock. The types of hedges you see in France and England are very large and dense. Heck, the ones in France stopped tanks.

In the US, that type of brambly mass is often taken over by undesirables like blackberry, honeysuckle, greenbriar, poison ivy, oak and sumac, and provides a terrific habitat for ground bees, wasps, and hornets. And predators love such thickets.

If you need some advice on type of livestock fencing that work in your area, your best bet is to work with your extension agent. The advice and assistance are free, and so are most of the resources. There are loads of publications, there are programs with the soil and water conservation district for cost share (if $ is available) - and there's really no end of info out there if you work with ag professionals.

You can also work with them to choose plantings that are safe for livestock.

(the fence around my yard is not very pretty, but it does keep the dogs from roaming. I highly recommend Henri Clematis for areas where livestock aren't an issue) .

The rest of my fenceline I take great pains to keep clear. Easier to maintain, easier to repair damage, and I don't have to risk a poison ivy rash from working on the fence or horses.

Jan. 24, 2010, 12:28 PM
Hedge Laying is a traditional craft practised in Great Britain where Hawthorne is commonly used. Check this out; http://www.hedgelaying.org.uk/

Jan. 24, 2010, 11:12 PM
Thanks Dmalbone, that's what I found too. But I asked a gardener's shop and he said they are not deadly, and then a girlfriend has some and her horses don't touch them - THANK GOD!

JSwan - not sure if you read the first post, but I don't plan on having JUST a hedge to keep my kids in. I am wanting to plant it on the INSIDE of my fence (wood and electric). My theory is that it will help keep the chewing at bay and/or leaning on the rails and posts. If it doesn't, then hopefully it will at least look pretty. ;)

Annnnnnnnnnnd if they destroy it all, my husband might leave me, but I will have spent a fortune educating other COTH'ers on what NOT to do! LOL

Equibrit - though that won't work for my application, that is a super cool idea! Never seen that before!!!! thanks

Jan. 24, 2010, 11:40 PM
Yes they eat roses. Mine often lean over the fence and eat the ones in the garden just to irritate my wife!

I've got a lot of hawthorn hedge. Excellent cover and thorns and grows dense so it's a good stock perimeter and proves good cover. Great for song birds. Beautiful scented flowers. They nibble on it but it's VERY hardy and does well for being nibbled on.

Jan. 25, 2010, 01:13 AM
Thanks Dmalbone, that's what I found too. But I asked a gardener's shop and he said they are not deadly,

Yeah... I don't trust anyone at the garden/tree shops. They tried to sell me red maples for pasture trees and I said they were toxic and he flat out argued with me telling me they were fine.