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  • Horse First Aid

What to do when your horse is injured.

By Sarah Emptage - BVetMed, MRCVS

If you own a horse for long enough, sooner or later you are likely to have to deal with an emergency. No matter what the problem, it is helpful to be well prepared and essential to stay calm.  Keep your vets number on your mobile phone and also in the tack room along with a well- stocked first aid kit. First aid kits can be purchased from the practice, please contact your branch for details.

If you discover that your horse is injured first, assess the situation quickly to get an idea of the severity of the problem. If your horse is panicking, keep at a safe distance, if you are injured you will not be able to help. Before you ring the veterinary surgeon it is helpful to note the following;

  • The position of any wound or swelling - location and also the distance or involvement with surrounding structures, such as joints, the eye etc.
  • The depth and type of any wound – eg. graze, puncture, laceration.
  • The extent and colour of any discharge – eg. blood, clear yellow fluid or pus.
  • The severity of lameness and the effect of this on the horse – is he eating and bright or shaking, sweating and shocked?
  • The presence of a foreign body – nail, barbed wire, gravel, grass etc.

Once you have assessed the situation you can call your vet and give him or her detailed information which will help him to give the best advice on appropriate first aid. Do not administer anti-inflammatories, eg. Equipalazone or Danilon, unless advised by your vet, as these may mask symptoms, making appropriate treatment more difficult.While the vet is on his way, he will advise you regarding first aid treatment which may include;

Application of pressure to stem blood loss. If there is heavy bleeding place a clean and non- adherent dressing directly over the wound and cover with a layer of gamgee. Then apply a vetrap with firm even pressure. If the wound bleeds through this, do not remove the first dressing as this will disrupt any clotting that has taken place. Place a further dressing over the first, using another layer of gamgee and a firmly applied vetrap. This dressing will be fine whilst waiting for the veterinary surgeon to arrive, but must not be left on for too long as excess pressure can be detrimental.

Cleansing to reduce infection. Use Hibiscrub diluted 1:20 in warm water and clean swabs or cotton wool to remove debris and dirt from the wound. Ensure that once used, swabs are discarded and are not re- introduced into the Hibiscub solution, causing contamination.

Cold hosing. Application of a steady stream of cold water over an injury helps to reduce swelling and clean away bacteria and debris. To be effective  this needs to be for 15 – 20 minutes.

Milbourn-first-aid-images copyApplication of a bandage. Ensure that any wounds are covered by a non- adherent dressing. Then apply a layer of padding, such as gamgee and then finally a bandage. It is essential that the padding is sufficient, not wrinkled and that firm even pressure is applied, excessive pressure can result in permanent damage to the leg.

Applying a pressure bandage.