Even though modern horse fences are moving away from wire -- both smooth and barbed -- you can still find yourself in a situation where your horse gets tangled up in the remains of a wire fence. Sometimes, horse properties have cut wires or skeins of wire partially buried in the grass, or horses can jump a fence and get tangled in wires on someone else's property. Either way, wire cuts can be very dangerous to your horse, so it is important that your respond properly in hopes to restore your horse to full health.
Freeing Your Horse From The Wire
The reason why wire fencing is so dangerous is because once caught, a horse will pull in an attempt to free themselves from the wire, driving the metal deeper into the flesh with a sawing motion. If the wire is barbed, it can significantly damage the muscles and connective tissue in a horse's limbs. If the fencing is made from steel cables, the horse could actually lose a leg as they attempt to pull free, just because the material is so strong.
Therefore, if you find your horse trapped in wire, you need to remain calm and resist the impulse to begin pulling on the wires in question. This can increase damage to the affected area. Instead, get a pair of wire snips and carefully trim the wires around the leg. If the wires are imbedded deeply in the flesh, do not attempt to remove them, as this can increase bleeding and damage to the tissues. The vet will need to take care of wire removal in these extreme cases.
Assessing Damage And Immediate First Aid
You should get your horse to an animal hospital as soon as possible. Usually, care within the first 24 hours is critical to healing, as many wounds can't be sutured after a day has passed -- leading to greater risk of infection and increased scarring. Procrastinating can also open your horse up to infections like tetanus. It can only be prevented if your horse is admitted and medicated in a timely manner. Your horse, if it is up to date on vaccines, could be protected, but if not, this infection could be more deadly than the wounds caused by the wire itself.
However, you will need to prepare your horse to be transported and treated. Treatment in the animal clinic or hospital, like Bijou Animal Hospital P.C., is often needed because a clean environment is needed to clean wounds properly, and then the animal can be under close observation for infections. To prepare your horse for transport:
- lay a clean blanket in the horse trailer.
- do what you can to stop the bleeding by wrapping a clean cloth or towel loosely over the wound.
- encourage the horse to walk, but get the trailer as close as possible to the accident site so as not to aggravate the wound or increase muscle damage.
- refrain from putting any ointments on the wound, as these will need to be cleaned out before the vet can close the cuts with stitches.
Treatment for the affected area largely depends on where the cuts occur. Unfortunately, many wire wounds tear up the "proud flesh" below the knees, which scars more easily and has a more difficult time healing that other areas, like the chest or hindquarters. In order to reduce scar tissue and improve the look and use of the legs after healing, it's is important to clean and bandage the wounds well after healing. You may be tempted to stop bandaging your horses legs as soon as the wounds are closed, but continuing to bandage them for as long as possible will discourage the growth of scar tissue and give your horse greater range of motion in the future.