|Your horse was in the field and has been brought in with
an injury, he's cut severely. There's blood everywhere. What do you do?
Well aside from the obvious need to put a call into your vet, there are
steps you need to take to stabilize the situation prior to the vets arrival.
The first step is to learn, this article is not intended to give advise on how to handle different injuries or situations, there are a number of books on First Aid for Horses that you can aquire to help you with that. Some titles I found to be current, concise, easy to read, and cover the basics, include:
First Aid for Horses - The essential quick reference guide
by Tim Hawcroft,
However you need to have a first aid kit put together that will assist you in caring for your horse in an emergency until a veterinarian can arrive.
No farm or stable should be without a means of rendering first aid
to equine accident victims.
A first aid kit should contain both the vital component of providing emergency care and those for just treating minor cuts and scrapes. The contents of kits will vary, due to personal preference, but there are some basic supplies that should not to be overlooked. It is vital that you have first aid supplies close at hand. They should be kept in a handy and easy to access location. Familiarize yourself with the contents of your first aid kit and know how to use them. For the container itself, a plastic tool box with a tray on top is a great way to transport your first aid supplies. Most discount stores have various sturdy plastic tool boxes that can be had at a reasonable fee. I have found that I prefer the bright red or yellow ones, so they are easy to locate. Just make sure it's big enough for all of your supplies. Take a permanent marker an BOLDLY mark FIRST AID FOR HORSES across the top, and each side of the container. This way if you have to send someone to fetch the container they are in no doubt that they have located the correct item. You may also want to have a more portable version, as it is a good idea to carry a kit with you when you are out on trail rides, horse camping, or are otherwise in a situation where veterinary attention is not readily available. Make sure it is a waterproof, nylon bag with a zipper and covering flap make good choices. Make sure they have some means for attaching on a belt or a saddle. This kit would contain primarily emergency items that could help in the event of a cut or wound.
There are also commercially packaged kits that can be purchased. If you are looking to purchase a ready made kit, be prepared to spend between $40.00 and $80.00 depending on what you are looking for. It's worth looking at what is available so you can find the one that suits you best.
Items for you First Aid Kit
The following items are normally to be used only by or under
the direct supervision of a veterinarian. When veterinary attention is
not readily available, there are specific uses for each of these items,
ask your vet for procedures
No one looks forward to haveing a horse injured, but the end results of the injury can often be minimized by the preparedness of the individual who is caring for the hores.
What you can do: Keep calm and do only what is
necessary while you wait for your vet. If you and the vet have worked together
before, he may suggest a few additional things you can do, but don't start
any treatment on your own and risk upsetting a delicate balance. You want
your horse to stay calm; if his stall is convenient and he's calm there,
place him in his stall and stay with him.
Make sure you provide your vet with concise information when you call.
What is the nature of the injury?
If your horse's feet are hot I would have someone squirt cold water on your horse's feet while you are on the phone to the vet. Some folks say this is a waste of time to help reduce or prevent Laminitis, but at worst you will have wasted some water, and Cold Hydrotherapy can be beneficial if you get to the horse BEFORE significant Lamellar damage has occurred.
Take the horses temperature if illness is suspected, insert an animal thermometer into the rectum, and wait several minutes before reading. The normal body temperature of a mature horse at rest is 99o to 101.5o F.
Check heart and pulse rates with a stethoscope if possible. These will vary with the age of the horse. Normal mature horses have a pulse of 28 to 40 beats per minute. Newborn foals have a pulse of 80 to 120; weanlings 60 to 80; yearlings 40 to 60. The horse should be calm, rested and relaxed to obtain an accurate heart rate. To determine the pulse rate, press your fingers against an artery. There are several locations on a horse where an artery can be felt, such as: (1) the back edge of the lower jaw; (2) the inner surface of the groove under the jaw; (3) inside the elbow, up and forward against the chest wall; (4) under the tail, close to the body; or (5) the inside or outside pastern. Practice is usually necessary to locate and feel the pulse easily.
Check skin pliability for dehydration. Pinch a fold of skin on the neck and release it, it should quickly return to its original position. If the horse is dehydrated, the skin returns slowly and tends to stay in a fold.
The color of the mucous membranes: the gums, the inside lips of a mare's vulva, and the nostrils should be pink. A fire engine red color usually denotes illness. Anemia causes a pale color and lack of circulation causes a bluish-purple color.
Rate of capillary refill (the rate blood returns to an area) indicates
the quantity and condition of the circulating blood. Capillary refill can
suggest anemia, colic, congestion and shock.You can determine capillary
refill time by pressing your thumb on the horse's gum and releasing it.
It should take about two seconds for the blood and normal color to return
to the area. Longer capillary refill times indicate dehydration or a circulatory
This article can go on and on about things you can do in an emergancy
situation. The most important thing is to be prepared with the materials
you will need and with the knowlege as to how and when to use them.