We are trying to get some fencing for our paddocks, and we have looked at several options. One option was cedar spit rail. We questioned whether this would be okay for horses, but I have gotten mixed answers. I came across your name while searching for information and thought you might have an opinion. Any help is appreciated.
Thank you for your good question. While wood is an option for horse fencing, it is not one of the best alternatives that are offered today. These are some of the reasons why. Split rail is considered a "broken rail fence"; it is built in sections and each section can slide apart.
Compare this to a continuous run rail, such as Flex-Fence; sections are not able to come apart due to fencing that runs up to 660' in length. Additionally, with wood there is not a given break strength. At some point the split rail will snap, or push out of the posthole. Over time, rails will sag allowing rails to fall, or push out even easier.
With Flex fence, there is high tensile wire bonded to the polymer (flexible plastic rail). These rails can be rated for break strength as high as 6,480 lbs. per rail. (If you have a 3 or 4-rail fence the break strength can be over 9 to 12 tons!)
On impact, the rail will flex and come back to its original shape. It is a safer alternative for your horse due to the break strength (it does not break like wood, rather flexes), it slips through brackets allowing the rail to move (rails cannot pop out of posts), and it just makes sense for horses. Rails come in colors, white, black and brown allowing for a natural wood look. Rails never need to be painted, and carry a limited mfg. warranty of 20 years (split rail does not come close to this, if there is a warranty at all).
This rail puts your hard earned dollars to work for a much longer time than wood or split rail. Maintenance is extremely minimal compared to wood, saving you money. Horses that lean or scratch on a flex fence will not wear it down as compared to split rail. Deer that will knock down wood rails normally do not break the Flex rail. This is also a safer alternative to having your horses get loose, and you not knowing it. Again, on impact, the rails flex back to their original position. Chewing issues can also be a problem with horses. The Flex-Fence is not palatable to horses, and they leave it alone. Wood is one of the most popular choices for horses to chew on! Some split rail prices may look very good, but find out how tall the fence is. Most split rail fences are only 4-41/2' in height. Flex rail fences can be built taller, making jumping the fence not as alluring to the horse (don't forget, with horses, the grass is always greener on the other side).
There are some installation differences in split rail and Flex-Fence. Corners and ends need to be braced and concreted with Flex (line posts can be augured or driven). However, this small bit of time for proper installation can be the difference of your horses staying in their pasture, or loose and a liability issue. Material costs between wood, split rail, or Flex are very close, if not the same with combination Flex choices. Additionally there are other alternatives such as woven wire or electric. However, my top choice is the Flex due to its ability to cover all issues of horse containment.
I hope this helps you. I know I sound biased, but I just feel we need to contain our horses the best way we can, and use our money as wisely as possible. If you have any further questions, please feel free to let me know. We can discuss any of the fencing issues you think will work for your particular needs. We are here to help you.