Having the right gate is another key towards being chore efficient. There is nothing more irritating than not being able to get equipment or deliveries into a area because a gate is too small or you have to walk “the long way” around a pasture every time you want to put horses out or bring horses in. I’ve seen many a horse property where cleaning paddocks is a real “chore” only because there’s not a good way to get in or out of areas.
There are many clever gates, including fencing that is easily removed to allow vehicle access.
The kiwi latch, the nifty, comma-shaped latch that came our way from the New Zealand sheep industry, is a handy little device.
A pass-through allows a person to slip into an area easily and quickly without opening a gate.
Here are some guidelines to think about when considering gate placement on your property:
Size gates for the deliveries you plan to get. Hay or feed? Gravel for footing? Does a tractor need to get through? Maybe the vet or farrier? How about getting the wheelbarrow or manure cart in or out of your paddocks? Think ahead and imagine what will be coming through your gates. Call places to see what size of trucks they have and what clearance they need. Usually 12 feet is wide enough for most large vehicles, unless there’s a corner involved.
For leading horses in and out, six feet is probably wide enough; bigger than that is often awkward and hard to hold other horses in or out when using them. Locate gates in the middle of fence lines, away from corners; a corner can be an awkward, tight spot where a more aggressive horse can easily pin another horse (or a handler!) in a corner and cause an accident.
While we’re speaking of corners, you may want to consider rounding out corners. Round corners in pastures are easier for mowing. They are also easier when bordering a driveway and you are pulling a vehicle around them.
Choose the very safest gate possible. When possible, and especially in confinement areas, choose gates with square corners. This will help alleviate a gap where a young, energetic horse might rear up and get its hoof wedged into an opening. Make sure the gate is constructed from material strong enough for horses. Will horses be leaning on gates or pawing them? If so, gates need to be very sturdy with solid panels to keep horses from catching a leg in between rails. Do you need to keep dogs out? Wire mesh gates provide more of a dog barrier. Watch out for rough edges, broken metal, rusted parts or anything flimsy.
Consider gate latches while you’re at it. Ideally you want something that you can open with ease but your horse can’t. Kiwi latches, the nifty, comma-shaped latch that came our way as a result of the New Zealand sheep industry, are handy little devices that allow you to open a gate with one hand while leading a horse with the other.
Pass-throughs are another gate consideration. These are for humans only (well okay, also for dogs and cats, too.) A pass-through allows a person to slip into an area with horses easily and quickly without opening a gate. There are many configurations for pass-throughs, but usually they consist of two wooden posts placed about 12 inches apart. Pass-throughs should not be used in enclosures for young horses or smaller livestock like llamas or sheep.
At Sweet Pepper Ranch, we are setting up one of our larger turnout paddocks with fencing and gates so we have been considering exactly these points. We chose to have a six-foot gate for where we take horses in and out, plus a pass-through for us. That way we can easily slip in with halters to get our horses, saving ourselves the extra step of opening and closing the gate. We also put in a 16-foot gate on the outside to be used for equipment (like tractors for mowing) or deliveries (like trucks with gravel footing) when we need to get into this area.