I know that I'll have a lot of people that will probably disagree, but I beg to differ about barbed wire fencing being unsafe. Barbed wire, like any other fence, should be constructed properly and have regular checkups and maintenance. Barbed wire is really only dangerous if it isn't tight enough, or if it breaks and loose coils are left on the ground. But provided that it is taut, barbed wire is effective fencing.
We've had horses for 25+ years, and they've always been in pastures with barbed wire fencing. Never had any accidents either! In fact, the majority of Iowans and Missourians use barbed wire. Most people wouldn't dream of getting anything else, since barbed wire lasts so long. But, as I said, you do need to check your fencing every so often. Big storms can bring trees down on fences, in which case you might have to tighten the wire again. But it's definitely cheaper than replacing an entire section of fence! Good hedge posts can last 40-50 years. The reason it's so popular around here is because we rotate cattle with horses (or, in our case, just put the cattle IN with the horses). Cattle (especially bulls) need fencing that has more reinforcement to keep them in.
Usually animals in pastures with barbed wire will brush up against it, and not like it. Once they brush up against it, they realize that it pokes them, and they won't go back. Some people that transition new horses to barbed wire fencing will string an electric fence around the top of the fence, to remind horses that "this is the boundary line!" But usually that can be removed after a week or so, and they'll know where they can and can't go.
Like I said, barbed wire is actually very effective and very safe if properly constructed. It must be very, very tight. It should hardly have any give. Some people think that they can just build a fence themselves, but this is a bad idea with barbed wire. Hiring a professional (with the right equipment) will save you a lot of heartbreak. Barbed wire fencing should be constructed with heavy hedge posts, and steel posts with clips. The pattern should be "hedge post, steel post, steel post, steel post, hedge post" with about 10 foot between posts. There should be 6 strands of barbed wire on the fence, and it should have huge hedge corner posts (minimum of 10 foot long; minimum 24 inches in diameter). These hedge posts should be buried about 5 feet down with a post-hole digger. There should be no movement or "migration" after being buried and tamped in. (If you have that happen, have the fencer come out and reset it. You're not getting a good fence otherwise!) Sometimes, depending upon the weather, corner posts have to be reset multiple times. We had a very wet corner in a portion of our pasture, and it had to be reset 3 times because it kept moving. The movement was minimal, but the fencer caught it and fixed it. Clips should also be placed on the steel posts to firmly attach the wire to said posts. When tightening the wire, you stretch it during warm weather, as it will tighten during cold weather. When I say "tighten it until it has barely any give," I mean it. You should be able to pretty much hang on it, and it won't sag. Can you imagine that you're strumming a guitar? That's still too much give. A professional will know what is too much, and too light. But really, you'll be able to tell. When you pull it back, you shouldn't have any slack to make a 'v' shape.
Here's a picture of my 3 doofus's at home. You can barely see an example of the steel and hedge posts in the background. At this time, the fence had just been constructed, and didn't have clips on it quite yet. Ideally, the clips should go on as it's being constructed, but our horses know the boundaries, and don't mess with the fencing. fence.jpg
The other thing about barbed wire fencing is that you just have to be smart about where you put horses. You never put a new horse in a separate paddock from a herd by barbed wire. They'll spike out and might get hurt. We always put new horses in an area surrounded by corral panels. After a few days to a week, we let them in with the others. They chase each other around for a while, but no one ever gets hurt. Of course, you do this in daylight too, so that they can use the whole day to figure out their new boundaries. It's also unwise to put young horses in barbed wire fencing without stringing an electric top wire on it. And if you have too many horses in too small of a pasture, then you're asking for trouble no matter what you do!
Nothing will be able to go through properly constructed barbed wire fencing. I truly believe that all the bad juju about barbed wire fencing probably comes from people that didn't have good fencing to start with.
Here's another example of barbed wire fencing. Look behind the calf, lol!
The fence was new in this photo too, so it didn't have the clips on it yet. rosie.jpg