Gates make me happy! They are a farm or ranch girl’s analogy for options. When you live on a horse property you almost can’t have too many gates, as they end up making so many things in horse property management that much simpler.
When I am on the road teaching classes, I often do consultations for folks. Onsite visiting a horse property, one of the first assessments I make is to look at gates. If anything is too difficult to access, including things as basic as feeding horses and cleaning stalls, it’s likely to become too much trouble and not get done properly.
Here are some of my basic considerations for gate access on any horse property:
Are stall doors and paddocks set up for getting manure carts in and out of these areas? I’ve seen properties where you had to step up or down to get into or out of a paddock. While this isn’t such a big deal for a horse or us, it IS a big deal if you’re dragging a heavy manure cart up or down those steps.
When it comes to getting footing materials in (and perhaps out of) paddocks, do you expect a dump truck to pull into your paddocks? Will you be able to get a tractor in to either spread footing or get old, decomposed footing material out?
Is there proper gate access so a tractor or equipment can get finished compost out of bins and onto pastures?
What about ingress and egress of your property? Will delivery vehicles be able to pull in? Will large truck and trailers be able to swing wide and get through your main gate? (We had this problem on a previous property, which had a telephone pole right across street that prohibited swinging wide, as well as a too-narrow front gate. That made it difficult for getting large hay deliveries, for example.) Consider this for delivery of equipment, commercial horse hauling, large loads of hay, etc.
Call companies to see what size truck and trailers they have and what clearance they will need. Twelve feet is usually wide enough for most large vehicles, unless there’s a corner involved. Rounding out fence corners makes it easier to pull a large vehicle (like a horse trailer) down a driveway that borders pastures—and makes them easier to mow, too.
For leading horses through gates, six feet is probably wide enough. Bigger gates can be awkward, as they may flop around or be difficult to maneuver. It can also be challenging to hold other horses in or out of an area if a gate is too large.
Locate gates midway along fence lines, away from corners. A corner can become an awkward, tight spot where a more aggressive animal can pin a horse (or a handler!) and cause an accident.
Pass-throughs are another gate consideration for humans (also for dogs and cats). A pass through allows a person to slip into or out of an area easily and quickly without opening a gate. There are different configurations for pass-throughs, but they usually consist of two wooden posts placed about 12 inches apart. Pass-throughs should not be used with young horses or smaller livestock like llamas or sheep as they will be tempted to squeeze through themselves.
For more considerations on gates and latches check out this article I did for The Horse. For more information on horses and land management, sign up for my online course in January, and if you live in Treasure Valley, come to our Winter Lecture Series at Idaho Equine Hospital.
It’s also not too early to think about our 2019 Sweet Pepper Ranch Cowgirl Retreats. We have two dates selected: June 13 – 16, and August 22 – 25. Register early to take advantage of our sale price of $545. On February 1, 2019, the price will go up to $595.
In the meantime, are your gates ready for your winter deliveries of gravel footings and hay?