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


Accident, Horse Tangled in Wire


Some of the worst equine injuries are wire wounds. In rural areas that have a history of cattle or other livestock production, wire (especially barbed wire) is very common. In facilities specifically designed for horses, wire (especially barbed wire) is typically avoided in construction.

Horses usually entangle their lower limbs in wire, feel tension and pull back against it and sometimes break the wire. Often, horses sustain severe damage to the critical and delicate structures of the lower limbs, especially the flexor tendons.

Sometimes horses are found still entangled in a wire fence. In their struggle, they have fallen down and become further entangled and do more damage to themselves. In cases where horses have been down for an extended period of time, they may be in shock or have sustained other traumatic injuries from the struggle.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

your role


What To Do

First, always work from behind the horse (the horse's back). If working on legs, keep your own body and legs out of the path of kicking hooves. If possible, cut off sections of wire from the fence with a pliers so that if the horse struggles the wire comes free with them.

Pay attention to how the horse is able to bear weight immediately after the accident. If they can walk normally, that is a good sign that the limb is structurally intact. If they cannot bear weight it could indicate a much more serious injury.

Once the horse is up, you can perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to gum color and capillary refill time, and heart rate, as well as the ability to walk normally.

In some cases, horses are able to walk without obvious lameness soon after a wire injury, but lameness worsens later. This can be suggestive of infection of important structures. There is always a concern that the joint or tendon sheaths have been wounded, and that they will later become infected.

Due to the potentially serious complications of lower limb wire wounds, contact your vet immediately.

What Not To Do

Do not attempt to free your horse if it is not safe to do so.

Never work near the horse's legs. Always work from the back. Do not attempt to remove intact wire without adequately restraining the horse. They may struggle violently causing additional damage to themselves and they may injure you.

your vet's role

In some cases, a vet will sedate a horse to keep it from struggling as it is freed from wire. Once the horse is up, they will then likely assess the horse's general health and assess the severity of injuries. Treatment options depend on the location and severity of the injuries.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is the horse still entangled in wire?
  • How lame does the horse seem to you?
  • Describe the wounds to me in detail.
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP