Sunday, April 18, 2010

In which I talk about horse containment and stuff I've learned the hard way

Funder is in the process of buying a trailer so that she can take herself to endurance rides and other horse events. Hooray for her! But the prospect of being mobile is also causing Funder to ask a bunch of questions.

I don't consider myself an expert horse-trainer, or expert anything, actually. But I do have some experiences that I can share that might save Funder (and others) from learning lessons I've already learned (the hard way)!

So, let me write about keeping a horse contained in ridecamp.

When I started riding endurance, I rode Story, who could easily be kept contained by a fence made of masking tape. My riding partner rode Blaze, who could easily be kept contained by a really big pile of hay + proximity to Story. We used an electric-tape fence connected to a charger run on a bunch of D-cell batteries. No worries.

After a few years, I brought the Toad to his first ride, and put him in the electric-tape fence. He was nervous about being away from home for the first time, but he was parked next to his buddy and a pile of hay, so all was well...at first.

Around 11pm, a mare in the camp next to us saw a ghost (or a leaf...or a piece of paper...or an air molecule...) and slammed into her PVC-pipe corral. The night was cold, and the cold plastic exploded like a beer bottle tossed from a 4th floor window. The mare ran towards our horses, who ran away from her...dragging the electric tape for quite a while until it finally got caught on the tires of a rig several camps down.

They were in a fenced enclosure. The problem was, the enclosure was the size of Bellevue, WA (population: 130,000).

Our horses were gone. Gone. For 4 and a half days, they were GONE.

I assure you that you never want to hitch up an empty trailer to drive home from a ride.

They were eventually discovered by cowboys on quads who were moving cattle, and were transported home not much worse for wear. However, that ended the years of containing those horses with electric tape.

My friend tried some other containment systems, most of which were really freakin' heavy. Safe, yes. Toad couldn't break out of those things, and nothing could break in. But they weighed down the rig, they rusted like crazy, and they were an enormous PITA to assemble in camp after a long day of driving.

Friends of ours like Horses2Go corrals, which is not too expensive and not too heavy. I find the three-rail fence rather short to contain a horse intent on jumping out or bashing through. The company has a new 4-rail style that I think would be a better visual deterrant. I'm not convinced that the 3/4" square tubing will stand up to a horse who wants to throw his or her weight against it, and bent tubing easily becomes cracked and broken tubing. Not so safe.

HiTie makes a good system, but it won't keep out a horse who is running loose in camp. Since our mares are hussies, leaving their tailfeathers un-enclosed is not ideal.
The Spring-Tie system had some "attachment" issues a few years ago, which have apparently been fixed. (Horses were disconnecting themselves from the tie, and then wandering away. The hardware failure has been re-designed and I haven't heard complaints for several years...but if you buy a used system, be aware that you might want to re-configure the clips). Spring-Tie seems quite sturdy, but has the same tailfeather-exposure problem as the HiTie.
Here's a system that I like better: Hold Your Horses corrals.

They are tall, lightweight, and a good visual and physical barrier to a horse who is interested in escape but not determined to bash her way out no matter what. If a horse really wanted to kick the stuffing out of the panels, she could. So, not perfect, but pretty good for a cooperative horse.
Here's what I use:

The Silver Medal Panels were manufactured by a friend of ours in Oregon. They are square-tube aluminum, with diagonal braces for strength. Each panel weighs about 30 pounds, so a middle-aged librarian can move them around pretty easily. The rails are wide enough that a hoof will not get caught, narrow enough that a head won't fit partway and get stuck. A horse can jump on the top rail and it won't bend. The panels connect with steel pins and pegs that won't bend or break or disconnect the corral.
...and he doesn't make them anymore. Sorry.
I can't recommend a specific product, but I can tell you what I've learned (the hard way):
* Know your horse.
* Visual barriers are important, and physical barriers are also important.
* Sturdy is important too, but if your corral is too heavy, you will hate it.
* That said: get something sturdier than you need...because not all the problems come from inside the corral.

18 comments:

  1. i have been waiting a while for you to tell this story, finally!

    do you have a pic of your old "fort knox" enclosure? that thing was hefty!

    i love the electric paddocks cuz you can make them so big, but it's embarrassing (and scary) when your horse gets out in the night, so my favorite system was to use my electric paddock during the day, and highline at night between two trailers or tree to trailer.

    i like your paddock cuz they can't put their heads through it. you probably sleep a lot better with that thing holding your horse!

    ~lytha

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  2. Not being an endurance/camping type person, there's one more thing I never thought of: that you actually have to take fencing with you. Not having a mare, I didn't think of the implications of other horses either. You are a wealth of information :-)

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  3. Those mares - what a lot of trouble they are - but it's worth it! Thanks for the education!

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  4. Hmmm, interesting points. I have been entertaining the thought of taking Tiny to a breed sanctioned trail ride, but wasn't sure about my options for overnighting her. This gives me something to chew on. Thanks!

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  5. Good looking panels. Any chance that we could get some more info on them; length, height, space between the rails, size of the square tubing? I could weld up a set here at home.

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  6. Good stuff! Thanks :)

    I think I will err on the side of heavy clunky things and get the lightest pipes I can find. I really don't think my darling will stay inside portable hot tape, and she is also a hussy. ;)

    WV cussesty - What you do when your horse runs away, trailing hot tape, to be a free mustang spirit.

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  7. I use a spring tie and love it (it's only ~2 years old). I'm not a fan of the hi-tie brand because they are made with fiberglass (splintering and breaking when they age). One down side to the spring ties is their weight, but I've managed - even being short and weak. I love that in less than 30 seconds my horses's home away from home is set up.

    I'm not a fan of paddocks in any configuration. Many times at the start of a ride, I've seen horses put their leg through the panel (beause they are being naughty and their buddies are leaving) and bring the entire thing down (bad) or not (even worse). BUT obviously different methods work for different people.

    I'm used to pickiting horses on a line from civil war reenactments so I'm more comfortable with a hi line, hi tie, or picket rope when it comes to containment.

    I have a mare and havne't had any problems with other horses passing by ect (she's not a real fussy mare), but I ususally try to park in some way that she's not by the path of travel (so she can get more rest during the night) and if a horse gets lose, it's not an obvious path to go though MY horse.

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  8. Mel is correct in saying that the Spring Tie and Hi Tie systems work well for some. I do high-line my horses when we aren't in a camp with a billion excited endurance horses, and I also tie to trees on the trail and tie to the trailer sometimes for convenience. On my backcountry trip last year I tied Fee to a tree overnight and hobbled her front feet to keep her from dancing around the roots of the tree all night. Those solutions work fine, but are sub-optimal when you ride the 25 and a bunch of horses jet out of camp on the 50.

    Flimsier panels can be a hazard, I agree. Our panels don't come apart, so they don't tip over. Some of the scarier accidents I've seen involve horses with cheap/flimsy panels that bend or break, sometimes wrapping a rail around a foot or leg or neck. >>shudder<<

    I'll try to get some measurements of them this week.

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  9. Ok, brainstorming - what if the trailer was a wall of the corral? Weld latches to front and back corners. That would probably prevent accordion collapse.

    What if I wired no-climb along the bottom rails of the panels? My darling does paw & that would keep her feet on the inside.

    This system would be ridiculously heavy. :(

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  10. This is timely! Will stayed overnight at his first ride this weekend (not competing, just keeping his BFF, and me, company) and we had some step-in fence posts and electric rope we inherited from a friend... We didn't have a source for the electric but trusted my horse to respect the fence, and the other horse to want to stay near him.

    Well, we were mostly right... My horse was fine in the fence, but his buddy ended up stuck in the strands that divided them, trying to snuggle up to him! The posts were pretty unsteady so it wasn't even the best temp fencing of its kind, but we're definitely looking for improvements on the next trip. This helps a ton!

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  11. This was a very informative post. Thanks for putting it up. I'll have to look into all these options.

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  12. I'll second everything Aarenex has said thus far, since I've been there for most of it.

    The PNER President, and evil-twin, Paul contains his horses with livestock panels attached to his trailer, which works great for the most part. The only failure I recollect was after a 75 or 100 (forget which) Paul was a bit DIMr and didn't properly close the corral. His horse wandered over and joined ours for dinner.

    I've also seen someone use t-posts and that orange safety barricade. Ugly as sin, and not a thing I'd stick my delicate flower inside, but it works for them.

    The key is to get something that you can manage when you're dead on your feet and your brain is a thousand yards away. Something that not only makes you comfortable in the complacence of your barn, but at 3:00 AM in a raging thunderstorm after finish a hundred miles at Renegade. Because THAT is when your "Sweet Baby" is going to test it, isn't she? :-)

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  13. Hmmm, thanks for the post ! Max puts Junior in what you have, but val had her horse in the Hold your horses. Since I will be going alone 90% of the time, I may try the hold your horses deal.
    Star is pretty good as long as there is a buddy nearby and a giant meal of yummy hay in her proximity.

    Darlene, said the guy that made yours and Max's inst in business anymore?

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  14. @Jocelyn: Yep, I think Max got some of the last sets of Silver Medals that the guy built. Every once in a while somebody sells a set used, but not often. There's some new person selling panels made of square-tube aluminum, but they lack the diagonal bracing that makes the SM so strong.

    HyH is a pretty good set, I think, unless you have a horse who is INTENT on bringing the whole system down...and at that point, I'd seriously consider putting that horse in the trailer overnight (or driving home)!

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  15. Wonderfully informative post, thank you! Love the pictures too.

    And there goes my piqued interest in endurance riding. Camp? Overnight?

    I've horse camped twice, didn't sleep either time. One was a strung high line, and the other permanent paddocks in a county park. The rope high line worried me, though the spacing was good. Nothing happened. Worrywart.

    We discovered nice sturdy permanent paddocks aren't good protection from rattlesnakes (found sunning on a feeder in the am) or mountain lions....found tracks 100 yards from camp! We spent most of the night getting up and calming the horses. No wonder with a lion nearby!

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  16. Hey Aarene,

    I decided to revisit your containment post because I am considering a couple of portable steel corrals for purchase and I'm not sure which one and wanted to know if you knew anyone who had used either one and had an opinion on them. Or if you've seen them during ride camp.

    The first one is:

    Cart a Corral
    A Complete Portable Horse Corral system.
    Included in each set: 8 panels, 8 connecting pins, 10 hook/loop straps, 1 storage bag.
    Our corral is constructed of tubular 1.5" powder-coated, galvanized steel.
    Each panel opens to 5' wide by 4' high providing you with 40' of corral making a 13' round OR 10'x10' square
    (Similar to the size of a box stall.) When closed, the entire corral measures 36"x29"x15" and stores
    in the included bag. Each panel weighs about 15 lbs and the entire corral weighs about 125 lbs.
    .
    $549.00 plus $149 shipping & Tax

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    The Second one is:


    Shady Shack
    Deluxe JR 101
    13’ x 13’ Round Corral
    OR
    10’ x 10 Square Corral
    $379.00

    8 panels 5ft. high x 5ft. long
    Made of 3/4 inch galvanized round steel pipe
    LBS 13 per panel
    Heavy duty Velcro attaches panels together Extra panels $47.75


    Thanks for any advice or opinions,
    ~Lisa

    Kitty Musgrave, owner
    Email: katzmagic@yahoo.com
    Phone: 559.392.0921
    Shop: 559.908.1510

    Address:
    1165 Woodworth
    Clovis, Ca 93612

    Call Us Regarding Shipping Details!

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  17. Oh and I forgot one more (These come in PURPLE!):

    Cooper Corrals
    Panels Are 10' Long with 2 Sections Folding Together 5' x 4½' Tall
    Fit in Most Trailer Tack Rooms, Stalls, or Truck Beds
    1-Person Setup with No Assembly Required
    Each Hinged 10' Panel Weighs 30 lbs.
    Additional Panels Are
    Panels Are Powder Coated for Long-Lasting Wear
    11 Colors Available
    Black, Red, Orange, Hunter Green, Royal Blue, Purple, Hot Pink, Lime Green, Yellow,
    Turquoise Blue, & Silver
    Other Animals They Hold Include Llamas, Emus, Ostrich, Alpacas & Ponies and small livestock

    Square 10' x 10' Stalls (Any Color)—$550 ($675 incl. shipping)
    Includes 4 Panels & 12 Clips
    Additional Colored Panels—$135
    Stake Kits - $50.00
    Bridle Rack (Any Color)— free with purchase while supplies last
    Bucket Hook (Any Color)— free with purchase while supplies last
    Shipping - Anywhere in the USA $125.00

    Cooper Corrals
    Green Cove Springs, FL 32043-5203

    ~Lisa

    ps

    I kind of lean towards the ones with more rails because then I can use the corrals for my llamas, too.

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  18. Caution on panels that tempt a horse to stick their head through them to get to grass on the other side. You have not seen excitement until said horse lifts head, moves panel, panics and starts moving, collapsing the whole dang thing around them like a nutcracker.

    Check your Spring ties at the spring part for cracking / metal fatigue. Dr. Garlinghouse had one of hers snap last year for just that reason, and horse ran through camp dragging it behind her.

    All containments have pros and cons, and those may be different for each horse and owner. Finding the best method for you is the key.

    I've been tying to the trailer for over 20-something years. Finally got Hi-Ties in 2004. And the same ones have moved from old trailer to current. Work great for us. I have geldings, who tie well.

    Karen Chaton who has over 31,000 miles in competition uses them. Even on the 8 week cross country XP rides, her horses were tied with a Hi-Tie most nights. (often they were at fairgrounds that had permanent corals and pens available) One of the easiest to use, and I'd guess one of the least expensive options. Cheapest being lead rope tied straight to trailer, or Hi-Line of you have to spots to tie it off to.

    Remember, the horse you load in the trailer may be a different one when you arrive. They may respect an electric fence at home, but away, with the excitement of a new place, may decide to blow thru it at some point

    Don't be afraid of camping with your horses. Practice at home with them before you actually head out to a weekend adventure.

    Great subject, and it always brings out so many different viewpoints of what is best

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