When a good friend established All Around Fence Company, in Belgrade Maine, I was introduced to a product that is the ultimate in “why didn’t they think of this sooner.” No matter what you call them – spring rope, bungee or elastic cord – these gates have made moving horses around our farm safer and more efficient.
The last few years I’ve done my own product testing. And I have to say, the manufacturers of the electric elastic cords have done a great job of improving the quality and longevity of the cordage since the first ones were introduced. Some will break down a bit after a year in the sun, but the two types we use on the farm now are testing out exceptionally well.
All major fencing companies serve the most obvious “get-it-here” sites using keyword searches on the Web. Searching for “elastic rope, bungy gate, elastic cord or spring rope” on fencing home pages will give you several selections. If you’re at all handy and enjoy non-emergency fencing, then Kencove’s (http://www.kencove.com) stock bungy cord is the way to go. I’m sold on this product, especially when combined with a sturdy handle such as Farm Supply’s (http://www.farmsupplystore.com) reasonably priced Heavy Duty Gate Handle.
What makes this handle especially useful is that the large ring can be used for hooking multiple gates together. After trying this handle for a while I ordered two dozen more. Four years and lots of abuse later every one of them is still just as strong and usable as the day it was installed.
Another plus to elastic-type gates is that they eliminate the need for spring-type gate handles. In 30 years of operating horse farms I never found one spring-type handle that could take everyday horse farm abuse with any degree of longevity.
There are several advantages to making your own elastic gates. One is the option of utilizing gate handles with a large end ring. Time is precious on a busy horse farm, and being able to hook three elastic gates together for one smooth opening is much more efficient than having to fully open each gate individually. In addition, our drafts are often led as teams, and opening a three-strand gate with one hand is necessary most of the time. I also like the ability to have gate handles at both ends of a section of fencing. This gives more options for rotational grazing and moving horses during mud season to reduce ground stress in heavily traveled areas.
Another reason I enjoy making my own gates is that I can adapt them to the items we already use for our tape and other types of fencing. I’m not a fan of having a dozen different items that serve the same purpose but all require using a different tool for installation or setup. For that reason, I like three-way handle hookups as well as a 2-inch wood post corner tensioner. Although this tensioner is designed for corners, I find it makes a sturdy and versatile gate connector, especially where the rope meets tape on our fences. I also don’t bother with rope clamps for attaching the cord to handles and gate ends. A simple double safety knot with twisted wire rope fencing keepers (keeps the cable from coming out of the sheaves) works exceptionally well. You can also just use the knot and secure the electric bungy cord with electrical tape.
Prepackaged elastic gate kits are nice for areas where only one gate is needed, such as across the top of metal or other types of solid gates. We also use single gates to secure pasture separations, field roads into the dooryard, and other potentially dangerous travel areas. These gates serve as visual barriers as well as secondary and perimeter containment systems.
The electric bungy cord gate kit from Kencove proved its quality after years in the sun and containing four young draft horses. The foals never once challenged its electric capacity, no matter how excited or anxious the weather or other conditions made them. The gate was installed at its 20-foot maximum with little stretch to spare, and its failure one day due to a wayward moose was fully forgivable. When it did break it was right where it attached to the post, so it was quickly repaired and back in service within minutes. To this day, that same gate system is keeping in those same drafts who are now approaching their teens.
My only negative critique of elastic gates, and it applies to any thin white fencing, is that they are hard to see against the snow. In warmer climates this isn’t as much of an issue, but most owners like to scan the fence lines to make sure gates are closed and the fencing is up. While some manufacturers are adding a red cord to the weave, the predominant white color of the cord makes it difficult to see.
For areas where gates are in the distance, ensuring the perimeter is solid requires extra attention in snowy conditions. This problem can be solved with tape or flagging, or by installing the Wellscroft Fence (http://www.wellscroft.com) bungy gate. This gate, available in three sizes, has a wide and highly visible wire and polymer braided sheath. At this time it is not manufactured to be easily hooked together with other handles, and it only hooks between two posts and does not retract to a third post as most electric bungy-type gates are designed to do. I have not tested this gate or handle for length of service, but it appears to be of quality.
Proper care for electric bungy gates is critical to their longevity. Do not release the gates quickly so they snap back against fence posts or other items. This action causes cheaper handles to fail more rapidly, and although heavy-duty handles prevent this, it’s still not a recommended treatment. Install the elastic fencing so it never touches the ground, and as much as possible, allow it to stay clean and free from snow, frost, sharp sand, dust and other particles. If you find options for different electric elastic cord, choose one that’s fairly smooth to the touch as it’s less likely to absorb splashed mud or dirt. I have also found that the elastic cord types with a smoother and somewhat hard coating do not deteriorate in the sun as quickly as the softer cotton sheath types.
If you’re a fan of sliced bread and frosted mugs, or any of those other little things that make life simpler and more enjoyable, then elastic electric gates are worth looking into.
Cover Photo by Dcwcreations/iStockphotography.com