Equine Escape Artists How to Keep Your Horse Contained

Some horses are far too smart for their own good and can wriggle their way out of just about any gate or fence. When your horse is a certified equine escape artist, you have to come up with clever ways to keep him/her contained.

Some horses are far too smart for their own good and can wriggle their way out of just about any gate or fence. When your horse is a certified equine escape artist, you have to come up with clever ways to keep him contained, both for his safety and for that of other horses and riders.

In some cases, instances of equine escape are due to human error, such as forgetting to close the gate to a pasture or leaving a stall door unguarded. But horses who learn how to work latches themselves are dangerous and can be difficult to foil. Some horses are even clever enough to wait until people aren't around to break out of confinement, which makes the situation all the more volatile.

To keep your horse contained, you have to come up with a reliable, safe way to securely lock every gate and door. This might mean more trouble for riders and owners because it will take longer to undo these latches yourself, but it's worth it to keep your horse contained.

Determine the Motive

Most equine escape artists are difficult to confine because they are looking for a way to evade some perceived (or even real) threat to their survival. For example, loud noises from the horse in a neighboring stall can be sufficiently frightening to encourage a horse to escape. To keep your horse contained, you must first discover why he wants to escape.

For example, a horse at our barn spent six months escaping from his paddock on a daily basis. He would jump the electric fence holding him in, then wander over to the other side of the barn to graze. He was never in any real danger because he didn't have access to the feed room or the street, but it was still a hassle for the owners and for our trainer. We discovered that he was being bullied by the other horses in his paddock, evinced by lacerations on his sides and rump from bites. It was nothing more than a case of schoolyard bullying, but it was enough to cause him to flee.

In many cases, horses will be easier to contain if you remove the threatening or uncomfortable situation. Upon closer examination, you might discover that your horse's stall is infested with ants or that a roof is leaking water. Just as you wouldn't want to live in those conditions, neither does your horse.

Many Necessary Repairs

If you discover that your equine escape artist is fleeing captivity because of living conditions, fix the situation as quickly as possible. You might have to move him to a new stall or into a new paddock, but it's worth the hassle if it keeps your horse contained.

For example, if you can't keep your horse contained because he's seeking the companionship of other animals, you might want to turn him out in a paddock with his friends or move him to a stall where he can see his buddies. If you think he's escaping because he's hungry and searching for food, try increasing the amount of grain he receives or spreading out his meals throughout the day.

You must also realize that if you can't keep your horse contained due to an external threat or discomfort, simply removing the threat or object of discomfort might not be enough. If your horse expects to have ants crawl all over him when he's in his stall, he won't change his mind just because you called an exterminator. You might have to actually move him to a new stall to quell his anxiety.

Bar Stall Doors

While stall doors with open tops (Dutch doors) look quaint in the movies, they aren't very practical for keeping your horse contained. When your horse can drop his head over the stall door, he has easy access to the latch on the bottom half of the door, giving him an opportunity to escape. You can allow your horse to see other animals by covering the top of the stall with iron bars.

Sliders Aren't Enough

Many stalls are equipped with sliding doors, which give owners a false sense of security. You might not be able to keep your horse contained by simply sliding the door shut; if he figures out how it works, he'll be able to manuever the door so that it opens from the inside.

To fix this, create a latch on the outside of the door that keeps it from moving when you aren't around. A great way to do this is to drill a hole into the wall next to the door. You can then insert a bolt in the door from which you hang a metal pin on a chain. When you close the door, insert the pin into the hole in the wall to secure the slider.

Tie Lead Ropes

With a particularly clever equine escape artist, the aforementioned latch isn't enough. For added security, you can tie a lead rope around the bottom part of the door so that it connects with the wall. Your horse will have a hard time reaching the rope even if you have Dutch doors, but you can easily untie it quickly if removing your horse is necessary.

Avoid Padlocks

Many a frustrated horse owner has tried to keep his horse contained by attaching a padlock to a stall door for added security. While this might be the most effecitve way to thwart an equine escape artist, it is also very dangerous in the event of a fire or flood. Never enclose your horse with something you can't remove within a few seconds.

Employ Electric Fencing

A much safer alternative to barbed wire, electric fencing will keep most horses contained. Jumpers in particular are difficult to keep inside paddocks because they simply jump the railing, so install electric fencing along the top of your fence (six to eight inches should do), which should give your horse second thoughts.