Injury and illness can happen at any time. It is a good idea that you have a stocked first aid kit available in order to take immediate action and prevent the situation from getting worse while you await veterinary advice. It is wise to have important phone numbers readily available – namely the vet and a friend with horse transport. Having a good plan in place can take the panic out of an emergency situation.
What should you have in your first aid kit?
Bandages and dressings
Cuts and grazes are the most common injury you are likely to have to deal with. Location and type will determine their seriousness. Stopping bleeding can be done by applying pressure but remember to pad well to exert even pressure, avoid wrinkles and make sure the bandage is not too tight or on too long. Remember to support the contralateral limb that will likely have to bear more weight. Bandages also serve the purpose of keeping the wound clean until veterinary attention can be sought.
Wound cleaning products and cotton wool
Wounds are often contaminated with dirt and debris. Cleaning with NaturalintX Equi Cleanse can help clean and reduce microbial load.
Applying a poultice can reduce inflammation, increase blood supply and draw out dirt and debris. Look for those impregnated with antiseptic to prevent infection. NaturalintX Hoof Poultice contains Tragacanth and Boric Acid.
Wounds naturally attract flies, those flies may lay eggs in the wound causing a condition known as myiasis, or flystrike. Try and reduce the number of flies near your horse with repellents and environmental management. It is important that you only use products registered and approved for horses, such as NAF OFF Deet Power Performance. NaturalintX Purple Spray has added fly repellent action.
NaturalintX Arnica Gel harnesses arnica’s natural ability as an anti-inflammatory; reducing bruising and aiding in the healing of soft tissue injuries. Not to be used directly on broken skin.
Thermometer and stethoscope
Having the skills and equipment to safely assess temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate and gut sounds can be invaluable when deciding when to call the vet, while also giving your vet important information before they have even set eyes on your horse.
Other useful items
Wounds in horses are very common. Some may be small and require minimal intervention, while others may be serious and require immediate veterinary attention. The majority of wounds are found on the limbs, often caused by fences and gates.
Types of wounds
A small puncture wound may hide considerable dirt and damage beneath. These should be cleaned and encouraged to drain and do not require sutures. The skin can heal quicker than the underlying tissues with the potential to trap infection beneath the surface.
Where something sharp has sliced through the skin, often leaving smooth edges that are suitable for sutures or medical glue.
A more jagged wound with increased risk of infection and underlying tissue damage. These may be managed as open wounds depending on location and severity.
Abrasion / Graze
Usually minor and treated with topical applications
What to do if you spot your horse has a wound
- Move the horse to an area with a hard surface to avoid further contamination with mud and debris.
- If the horse is in pain or distress, call your vet for them to sedate and assess the wound safely.
- If the wound is very deep, bleeding profusely, or involving a joint cavity or the eye – call your vet immediately. It is not always obvious when joint penetration has occurred so it is best to call your vet if the wound is anywhere near a joint. You should also involve your vet if the horse is lame or penetration of the sole has occurred.
- If safe to do so, restrain the horse and examine the wound, apply direct pressure with a clean dressing from your first aid kit to stem any bleeding. A thick layer of NaturalintX Dressing secured with NaturalintX Wrap applied with even pressure can slow the bleeding until your vet arrives.
- As long as it is not bleeding, wash the wound with cold water to reduce swelling and contamination. Add NaturalintX Equi Cleanse to clean superficial cuts.
- If you are uncertain whether veterinary attention is required, take a picture and call your vet for advice.
- Once the initial first aid has been administered and the wound has started to heal, follow your vet’s advice to hopefully obtain the best possible outcome.
- The wound is usually bandaged to avoid it from drying out. Apply ointments if appropriate. Beware of reflex swelling when the bandage is removed, it may be wise to remove for a few hours initially and gradually increase bandage-free time over several days.
- More minor wounds may be left uncovered. Use NaturalintX Wound Cream or NaturalintX MSM Ointment to form a protective barrier and support healing.
- Only remove sutures if your vet has said to, wounds often look healed and then ‘unzip’ as soon as the sutures are removed!
- Monitor for ‘proud flesh’ – where the new granulation tissue protrudes higher than the skin. Contact your vet as they may need to remove some of the extra tissue to allow healing to progress.
Applying a poultice
A poultice is used to draw out pus and reduce inflammation. Some contain an antiseptic to help resolve and reduce infection. NaturalintX Hoof Poultice contains Tragacanth and Boric Acid. Have everything ready and to hand so you do not need to put the foot down while applying.
- Ensure the foot is clean and dry, cut a piece of poultice material to the desired size.
- Wet the poultice with cooled boiled water, squeeze out the excess and apply to the foot.
- Cover with soft padding, ensure sufficient cushioning at the heel bulbs and coronary band.
- Then cover with NaturalintX Wrap, applying even pressure – not too tight that it will cause pressure but not so loose it will fall off.
- Cover with a waterproof layer – e.g. duct tape, feed bag, poultice boot.
- Change at least once daily and use for 2-3 days.
- Call your vet if you detect swelling tracking up the pastern, as this could indicate further infection.
Being prepared for common equine emergencies will undoubtedly remove some of the panic you might feel when faced with these situations. Remember to always call your vet for advice.