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How to treat horse injuries

How to Treat Horse Injuries

Simple methods of first aid can be applied by us, as owners to support throughout injury or to sustain until veterinary assistance becomes available.  We are all equine first aiders, responsible for our horse’s welfare and capable of providing support where and when is necessary.  In fact, in most cases, efficient first aid can help to minimise trauma from the injury itself.

So what should I have in my first aid kit?

Every horse owner will have a variety of items in their first aid kits, in some cases, we purchase human items. Often these human items help to fill the equine gaps in the market, in others, the occasional wrap finds its way to our human kit. But – what are the must-have items and are we using them correctly?

Read more: Equine First Aid Checklist

4 simple steps to wound care 

Step 1 - Cleansing the wound

It is important to assess and understand the severity of the wound, this means that cleansing around the wound is usually the first part of the first aid process. Be sure you have a kind application that can be diluted in water and bathed around the wound.

Applications with Chlorhexidine are popular choices, as are those with Povidone Iodine, although as with most antiseptics, some can be abrasive.  Care must be taken when using antiseptics such as chlorhexidine or iodine solution. They should be used as a diluted solution and only under the direction of a veterinary surgeon, as these chemicals can be cytotoxic and damaging to wound healing.

We are now understanding that a natural approach can be as efficient and less abrasive. Grapefruit Seed Extract performed well in trials while retaining a completely non-toxic nature, therefore proving kind to the skin. Cotton wool is usually supporting the cleansing process, dip into the diluted solution, wipe and discard.  Due to the nature of horses, it is usually more cost-effective to purchase cotton wool as a roll and not cotton wool balls which may not go far. Looking for cotton wool rolls that are 100% natural will help to supply the softness and absorbency to continue this sympathetic feel to the skin and the affected area.

NAF Dressing KitNAF Dressing Kit

Step 2 - Assess the wound

Once the area has been cleaned the wound can be assessed, veterinary intervention should be sought if the owner has any concerns. It is best to seek advice for those puncture wounds that may have dragged foreign bodies into the flesh. Any puncture marks or deeper wounds near joints warrant veterinary intervention. In addition, excessive swelling or lameness associated with any wound also requires a veterinary opinion.

Read more: How to spot the signs of Laminitis in your horse,

Read more: Six Ways to Prevent Laminitis in Horses

Step 3 - Apply a poultice

For some wounds, it is then necessary to apply a poultice.  This can be done by the owner or under veterinary supervision and then replaced perhaps on a daily basis over a period of time. A typical poultice for use in wet or dry circumstances comes in sterile packaging and contains a highly absorbent and multi-layered dressing, impregnated with natural poulticing agents. Tragacanth is the ingredient that makes the poultice when wet feel slimy to the touch, this is included for its drawing properties while Boric Acid supplies the antiseptic qualities.  The outer side of the poultice contains a protective layer to retain the moisture content and prevent contamination from environmental factors.  

As many hoof abscesses are typical offenders, you are able to get these poultices in hoof-shaped applications for ease of use.  Alternatively, the main poultice can be cut to shape as per requirement and the poultice can be applied three ways.

Types of Poultice Dressings

Cold Poultice

  • Bruising and inflammation

Hot Poultice

  • Abscesses
  • Hoof ailments
  • Wounds

Dry Poultice

  • Open wounds
  • Pressure support

Step 4 - Use a wrap to support the dressing 

Depending on the location of the wound an insulated dressing may be required to help provide cotton padding.  This is usually encased in a tubular non-woven casing to provide integrity and the dressing itself can support minor wound management and help support against pressure points.

When your wound has been dressed, a wrap is required to provide security and help support the wound dressings keeping them efficiently in place.  These wraps should provide a dual purpose, both cohesive and elasticated. When used correctly the elasticity should equate to around 50% stretch which helps to comfortably support the dressing and therefore the wound itself. Care should be taken not to overtighten and padding should always be used underneath an elasticated/cohesive type of bandage layer.


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