Cattle Guards and Horses – A Word of Caution from Barn World

Cattle Guards and Horses

Lately, we’ve been receiving a lot of calls for cattle guard quotes from horse owners. I wanted to give a quick review of why they’re not recommended for use with horses and why a traditional livestock gate is your safest alternative.

Cattle Guards vs. Gates

A red livestock gate with a locking chain attached cattle guard installed in the road with a truck driving over it

Dangers of cattle guards

Although cattle guards are very popular and provide the ultimate ease of access to all your pastures. They can also be very dangerous when used with horses as they have a more slender hoof and leg than a cow. These physical differences can allow a horse’s hoof to slip between the cattle guard rails. When this happens, they can slide down between the top rails until they reach the bottom of the vaulted area.

This exposes one of the weakest parts of their leg directly to the cattle guard rails themselves. This ‘fall’ into the guard can lead to a struggle to free itself. It is an extremely difficult situation and can be very hard to even assist the horse in freeing itself.

The safest and the only viable alternative to a cattle guard for horses is a gate. It may be less convenient than driving over a cattle guard, but it is certainly safer than exposing your horse to a possible broken leg.

As a quick side note: Other hoofed animals can easily cross the barrier. Goats, sheep, and other sure-footed livestock that are very nimble can quickly learn how to get across the curved rails. Of course animals with pads, such as cats and dogs can also learn to tip-toe across the rails and escape to freedom!

Concrete Cattle Guards

As a quick point of interest, some concrete cattle guards are designed to prevent a hoof from sliding down between the top barriers.

The top vertical cross members are rounded concrete that tapers together to a distance of 2″ at the bottom. This prevents the hoof from falling through and exposing the leg to breakage.

concrete cattle guard

Advantages Of Concrete Cattle Guard Forms

This style doesn’t require a vaulted area or foundation for support. They are built to sit directly on the ground without an open vaulted area underneath as seen in traditional designs. It’s recommended that they rest on a flat surface such as a bed of gravel to aid in drainage. Draining water away from any site is important for the longevity of any structure.

cement cattle guard form

The other nice thing is that you make them yourself in a re-usable plastic form!  This is beneficial in two ways:  lower shipping costs than steel and you can make as many as you like.  Set them side-by-side to create larger crossings and never have to worry about a hoof sliding through some steel rails!

Help with cattle guards

If you’re considering using a cattle guard where horses are present, we would suggest that you use a traditional farm gate or livestock gate and realize the inconvenience of operating the gate is well worth preventing the risk of injury to your horse.

Take a look at some of our Sioux Steel Livestock Gates in the video below and if you’d like a shipping quote to your address, just let us know!

Livestock Gate review:

If you have any questions or if we can help with your cattle guard decisions, please let us know and we’ll be more than happy to help.


4 thoughts on “Cattle Guards and Horses – A Word of Caution from Barn World

  1. I need help deciding on what kind of grid to use to keep animals in and/or prevent animals coming on my property .
    I will eventually have a gate but I need something I can have when my gate needs to stay open for a while
    I like animals so I’m looking for something like a cattle guard to keep animals in , such as Great Dane dogs , a couple of goats , miniature horse , donkey , etc.

    I need to keep out stray dogs and coyotes , etc

    • Unfortunately the cattle guards are only effective with large hoofed animals. Goats are very well adapted to walking and balancing on smaller surfaces even though they have hoofs. Soft-padded feet found on dogs an coyotes allow them to also balance and traverse traditional cattle guards.

      Really the only effective means of keeping the smaller hoofed and soft padded feet out is with a traditional gate.

      Hope that helps!

  2. We have an over population of feral horses in our neighborhood, don’t want to put gates on driveway, and don’t want stud piles on the front porch. How can you modify the design of cattle guard, so it deters horses, but doesn’t trap them? I need perspective of horse owners to know what to do.

    • The top rails of traditional cattle guards are far enough apart that they aren’t recommended for use with horses. A lot of people do use them and typically horses aren’t interested in walking on or trying to jump them. They can be set side-by-side to increase the distance across and that extra size usually dissuades them from considering a crossing. However, there concrete cattle guards do offer a better solution.

      Concrete cattle guards (click here) have a ‘bottom’ between the ridges. The idea is if a horse does try to cross, the hoof will slide down between the ridges and hit the bottom where they come together. There isn’t a vaulted area beneath for their hoof and leg to slide down into. The gap at the top is 5″ and it closes to a 2″ gap where it has a closed bottom. Click here to see the picture and diagrams for the re-usable concrete cattle guard form and finished product.

      Hope that helps and let us know if you have any questions. (720) 238-2190

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *