Horse First Aid Checklist
Horses are accident-prone. Chances are, if there is trouble, they will find it. Creating a horse first aid kit allows you to act quickly. This can save your horse’s life and lessen the time and money for recovery.
“When trying to plan ahead, I consider a list of the most common emergencies and plan more completely for those while keeping in mind anything can happen,” said veterinarian Beth Ross of Pine Bush Equine Services and Veterinary Hospital in New York.
She encourages clients to stock three types of first aid kits. One for each of these scenarios:
- Trail rides
- Around the barn
Many of the items are likely things you already have on hand. However, organizing them into a first aid kit means the supplies are readily accessible in an emergency eliminating extra stress from the situation.
On the trail
You can assemble a basic first aid kit for the trail for about $100. Cuts, especially on the lower leg, are the most common emergency. Injuries can range from a simple scrape to a deep wound that involves a joint or blood vessel.
“My top choice item to have in a first aid kit is a large clean bandage, preferably long quilts, 16-18.” This gives you the ability to apply firm pressure and compression with a wrap,” she said. “I have seen horses with severe lacerations survive because the horse owner stopped bleeding. I have also seen horses develop life-threatening complications because no one took the time to stop bleeding before a veterinarian arrived.”
Horses live in dirty environments. Limiting exposure to bacteria improves the chances that the horse makes a full recovery. This is especially true if the wound involves a structure like a joint or tendon sheath.
With that in mind, these are the minimum supplies Dr. Ross suggests having on hand for wound care.
- Clean quilt bandages.
- Self-adhesive, flexible bandages (at least two rolls on hand at all times).
- Duct Tape. A must have for securing bandages, wrapping hooves, repairing an equipment malfunction and more.
- Multi-tool with a knife, pliers, and wire cutters.
- Electrolyte paste, which can be used if your horse develops electrolyte abnormalities from over-exertion. It can also help in mild cases of colic or dehydration.
- Veterinary prescribed allergy medication. In an emergency, it can be given for allergic reactions including heaves but should only be used with veterinary guidance, according to Dr. Ross.
- Veterinarian approved nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to treat pain, inflammation, and fever as an emergency medication. Under veterinarian guidance it can be useful to keep these drugs on hand in specific situations to keep your horse comfortable until you can get him to a safe place for treatment.
On the road
Riders who travel with their horses, for trail riding or competition, need supplies above and beyond those in a basic first aid kit. Dr. Ross estimates additional supplies will cost around $200.
“I would include all of the items from a trail kit but also have on hand more medications to treat other common emergencies like colic and eye problems,” she said. Some of these medications would need to be prescribed by your veterinarian.
Dr. Ross includes these items in a travel kit:
- Extra Halter
- Lead Shank
- Hoof Pick
- Antiseptic wound cream/gel
- Antiseptic cleanser
- Sterile gauze
- Latex gloves
- Clippers or a razor for removing hair to more closely examine a wound.
- Towels for drying horses, applying pressure, or blindfolding a horse when needed. They can also be used as a sling to help support an injured limb.
- A prescription sedative that can be used in emergencies after discussion with a veterinarian.
- Sterile fluids for rinsing a wound.
- Large syringes to help rinse a wound that fluids cannot be poured on or used to administer medication.
- Alcohol for cleaning wounds.
- Sterile eye drops for relieving irritation from wind, dust, and debris.
- Veterinarian prescribed antibiotic eye ointment, which can be placed in the eye if it is swollen until a veterinarian can arrive. Never use ointments that contain steroids in the eyes.
Around the barn
Once you have the supplies for the first two kits assembled, a few additional items make for a complete barn kit. It’s likely you already own some of these items. Storing them as a kit means they will be ready at a moment’s notice.
“This kit is compiled of the first two kits plus a few extras for horses that may be in trouble out in the field. The kit, in its entirety, can be brought to the horse,” she said. “The barn kit can contain a duplicate of the aforementioned items including electrolytes.
Medications prescribed by your veterinarian for temporary calming and pain relief may also be a part of this first aid kit. Ask your vet for recommendations for what to keep on hand based on your specific situation.
Consider adding these items to your horse first aid kit for accidents that arise on the property.
- Extra Blanket.
- Tarp. “This is helpful if the weather is threatening and can be used to help move down horses,” she said.
- Fly Spray. Horses can get in trouble in the field. Offering them this comfort is important.
- 3-Gallon Bucket. Beyond carrying water or items, it can be used as a step stool or seat.
“Every barn should have laminated cheat sheets with important phone numbers on them,” she said. “They can also have normal vital signs for your horse. It is good to have these things written down rather than remember them; in stressful situations, it can contain important dosing information that you determine with your veterinarian.”
Make it accessible
In an emergency every minute matters. You don’t want to waste time searching for a knife to cut a horse free or a bandage to stop bleeding. Keeping a horse first aid kit stocked and handy will save time and better prepare you to take care of your horse until the vet can visit. Check each kit regularly to replace any used or expired items so you have exactly what you need when you need it.