What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Ate Wire, Twine or other Foreign Material, Witnessed


Pieces of bailing twine, string or wire are sometimes found in hay or left where they might be ingested by a horse. Thankfully, in most cases, horses avoid eating these sorts of things. However, foals and curious horses are more likely to pick up, chew and swallow foreign material.

In most cases, short pieces of twine and other foreign material passes all the way through a horse's gastrointestinal tract without causing a problem. However, in rare cases twine and other material can cause an obstruction in various parts of the gastrointestinal tract, and may require colic surgery to resolve. Wire is rarely ingested but, if eaten, it can perforate the intestinal wall and cause a variety of severe conditions that may also require surgery.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you notice signs of colic following this sign.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
    • If you feel that this just happened, or you can see the material still in the mouth.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

If you are confident opening your horse's mouth and retrieving the material, do so. You may try to grasp it and gently pull it out.

The most practical approach is to monitor the horse for several days a little more carefully than usual, looking for the foreign material in the manure and watching for any signs of abdominal pain (colic), depression or inappetence.

If ingested, it may take hours to days for foreign material to appear in the manure.

What Not To Do

Do not try to retrieve the material if you are not confident. You can easily get bitten.

Do not apply excessive force in attempt to remove foreign material. You could hurt the horse. Call your vet instead. They will tell you whether to try and hold onto it until they arrive.

your vet's role

Your vet may be able to retrieve the foreign object with the use of an endoscope, but only within minutes of ingesting the material. After that, unless the horse is showing signs of a problem, the best course of action is to monitor them carefully over the next few days.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did this happen?
  • What, exactly, did the horse swallow?
  • What, exactly, did the horse swallow?
  • Do you think the horse's attitude and appetite are normal?
  • Do you notice any signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Is the horse eating, drinking and behaving normally otherwise?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP