Even if you are an experienced horseman or woman, it's best to get the vet out in the case of a medical emergency. With their training and experience, they will spot any underlying issues that you may not have the knowledge to address.
That being said, all stables should have a horse first aid kit box to help stabilize and manage a horse's illness or injury until the vet arrives.
If you are traveling with horses to shows, clinics, etc., you should also have some horse care items on hand if an injury or illness occurs.
Not sure what to keep in a horse first aid kit? Here are ten essential medical items to keep on hand.
Even though a veterinary book is no match for a seven-year veterinary degree, books can help a lot with spotting the signs that something is wrong with your horse. There is a lot of horse care information online, but it isn't always provided by qualified vets, and therefore, can be unreliable.
It's best to invest in at least one high-standard vet book. The book Veterinary Notes for Horse Owners by Captain M. Horace Hayes FRCVS is an excellent choice, as it covers just about everything you can imagine.
Make sure you read medical books so that you can pick up on symptoms of issues like the flu, sleeping sickness, and colic quickly. Keep your medical books near your horse first aid kit, just in case you need to check something before providing medical care.
One of the first signs a horse is ill is that its temperature will be higher than normal. Therefore, a thermometer is a horse first aid box essential. These days, people prefer a digital device over a mercury one because they are much easier to read.
A good stable yard takes horses' temperatures at least once a day and records these figures in a book or digital spreadsheet. This horse care practice makes it easy to spot if something is wrong and if there is a prevailing temperature pattern or deviation. If your yard does not do this, you can always request a groom to do so for you or do it yourself.
Bandaging can be fiddly, especially if a horse is in pain and if you are upset. Stretchy, self-sticking bandages are much easier to work with than traditional ones. They are excellent for keeping a wound dressing or stable wraps in place.
There are several brands, such as Co-Flex and Vet-Wrap. You can also get similar products at the pharmacy, which are much more cost-effective than getting the branded version at the tack shops.
You will need a range of cutting devices in your horse first aid box. Scissors are essential as they are always needed to cut bandages. A sharp knife, safely stored, can also come in handy. Apparatus like bolt cutters can also save time and excessive flesh damage in the event of a horse getting caught in wire in the stable or paddock.
It's best to keep these kinds of cutting devices in one place, like your medical box, so they can easily be found in an emergency.
Before bandaging up a wound, you'll need to clean it so that no debris is there to cause infection. Vets advise that simply running cool, fresh water over the wound for a while is one of the best ways to clean a wound. However, it's also a good idea to clean wounds with products like F10, Dettol, Savlon, or Scrub Up.
These products are also good to have in your horse first aid medical box, so you can clean your hands properly before dealing with a wound.
An all-purpose, affordable wound ointment such as zinc oxide cream, Corona Ointment, F10 cream, Equisalve, or even Sudo cream is also a must for your medical box. A wound cream aids healing and helps keep dirt and bacteria out of the sore.
These kinds of ointments usually also help with other day-to-day issues like skin irritation and insect bites.
Whether it's for everyday horse care uses like stable, paddock, or boxing bandaging, or for an emergency, stable wrap bandages are a go-to item. Ensure you always have a clean set in your first aid box for emergencies besides the ones you use for non-emergency purposes.
Some kind of padding is necessary to cover and protect a wound with dressing before it's bandaged. Keep items like gamgee, cotton pads, and gauze diapers for this purpose. These items should be kept in sealed containers so they are sanitary for use on wounds.
Epsom salts have a variety of horse care uses. The product has been used for decades to relieve gut stoppages in the event of colic. The salts are also excellent at clearing wound infections. You can use it to wash out small cuts and nicks. Overall, it's an affordable must-have for your horse first aid box.
As part of your medical inventory, you should also have a laminated page or a book that includes horse care medical protocol. Having a clear protocol in place can help things move faster and more effectively in an emergency.
This is especially important if you run a stable yard, as you will need the full names of the horses under your care and their owners' names. You'll also need the owners' phone numbers and next of kin.
It's best to always contact the owner if there is a horse first aid emergency before calling the vet. Try a next of kin if the owner is not available. Call the vet if the problem is severe and you cannot get hold of the owner. The horse's needs take priority over any political correctness. If there is a financial problem, that will be between the owner and vet to sort out.
Make sure procedural directives are clear and easy to find so that a groom or another horse owner can easily attend to an emergency if the stable master is unavailable.
If you are a horse owner, keep a sheet or book of emergency protocols for your horse with your medical kit, and give a copy to the stable managers to keep on file. Include your vet's name and number and any allergies or intolerances your horse may have, such as an allergy to penicillin.
As you can see, there are several simple horse care items you need to keep in your medical kit. If you keep all of these essentials organized and clean, it will be much easier to find each object and use it right away when there's a problem.
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