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Double Check Your Hay Before Feeding!

With the daylight savings time switch that took place a couple weeks ago, many of us are feeding our horses in the dark every morning and evening. It would be easy to accidentally throw your horse a piece of harmless baling string that was caught in a flake of hay. However, that baling string is not always so harmless!

Anytime a horse ingests a foreign object there is a risk of the horse developing an impaction. Baling string, hay netting that is used to wrap round bales, plastic bags in the pasture, even cotton lead ropes can be ingested by a horse and cause serious, often life threatening, complications. Many horse owners feed round bales during the winter and leave the netting on the bale. Yes, the netting may keep the round bale together a little better, but if a horse eats any of that netting it will likely form an impaction and colic. A curious horse that finds a cotton lead left tied to a stall will often chew on it and can end up swallowing parts of it. Young mischievous horses are especially known for this! Plastic bags that have blown into horses’ paddocks are another fun item horses like to check out. Hay strings that have been accidently tossed into a stall with a flake of hay are common culprits of impaction colics. In the rare case a horse is able to pass a foreign object on its own, it often is not passed without a mild-severe 1-3 day colic.

Stone Ridge Equine Care received a call from a client whose horse was showing signs of colic. Dr. Stone passed a nasogastric tube and administered mineral oil and electrolytes, along with giving IV pain meds. For 3 days Dr. Stone treated the horse for discomfort. After 36 hours Dr. Stone was able to feel the impaction via rectal palpation. He was unsure if the patient would be able to pass the impaction, but surgery was not an option for this particular patient. After 3 days of colic pain the horse did finally pass the object, which ended up being a cotton lead rope. (See Picture Above)

The less fortune horses that are not able to pass the item is often due to the object forming into an enterolith. An enterolith is a mineral concretion formed in the gastrointestinal system. The body starts laying down calcification around a foreign object which creates a large hard ball in the GI system that can not be passed.  The abdomen is surgically opened and the enterolith is removed. Once the enterolith is removed and the horse recovers from surgery, it usually will start eating and drinking as normal.

Impactions, colic pain, and surgery due to foreign objects can all be prevented if we, as owners, make sure to double check our hay before feeding and double check that our horse’s environment is free of debris. We have a couple enteroliths in the clinic that we have removed surgically! Next time you are in ask to see them, they are pretty remarkable!

One Response

  1. Mike says:

    Great article. Thank you for that infomation. I double checked my round bale feeder tonight.

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  • Penny King, Oblong IL

    I can’t say enough about Dr. Stone & his staff. They go above & beyond & take the extra mile to take care of your horses needs. They really care about what your horse really needs.

    They have been up all night with emergency colic surgery with a positive outcome. They saved a foal that was born three weeks early. I can’t even begin to tell everything we have been thru together. But I can tell you one thing, they don’t come any better than Dr. Stone & his staff. They are like family to our horses & us.”