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


Splinter, Wood, Metal, Etc. Stuck in Skin


Generally, it is best to leave foreign bodies in place until your vet can remove them. At minimum, take a picture of the injury with the foreign body in place, before removal. Ideally, the injury does not involve a critical structure and the foreign body is easily removed in its entirety.

As for wounds, foreign bodies located in the face, neck, body and upper limb are less likely to cause the horse problems than those in the lower limb, where they can penetrate critical structures.

However, large foreign bodies that have penetrated a horse in the chest or belly areas can introduce infection to those cavities and involve organs and can be life-threatening.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

You may choose to remove small foreign bodies yourself, but you should keep track of exactly where it was prior to removal. A photo works well for this. When in doubt have your vet assess a foreign body prior to removal.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to pull a foreign body from the skin of a horse unless your are confident you can retrieve the whole thing. Leaving a fragment embedded is worse than leaving the entire thing in.

your vet's role

Your vet will remove a foreign body in a controlled way that minimizes the likelihood that it will break off, leaving material in the wound. In addition, by seeing the object in place, they will have a better understanding of the anatomy involved. By knowing this, they have the best chance for preventing problems and providing a good outcome.

Once the material is removed, the wound is usually carefully evaluated and cleaned. Importantly, your vet considers the impact of the injury on your horse's general health.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Where, exactly, is the foreign body located?
  • How deeply do you think the foreign body penetrated?
  • Does the horse seem to be in pain or distress?
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP