The Ultimate Guide to Horse and Barn First Aid

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If you are new to horse ownership, you may soon find out that horses have a way of getting into trouble the second you turn your head. Most of the injuries they rack up seem to happen when they are out in the pasture, out of eyesight. There is never a clear picture of exactly what monster your horse was fighting out in the field, but once he comes back to the barn in less-than-stellar shape, you will need the tools to help him get back into fighting shape!

A first-aid kit, with all the essentials in one place, is a great idea for any horse owner. Stored in a very visible spot, it’s at your fingertips the moment you discover the latest equine injury. You can buy a prepackaged first aid kit or build your own. Below you will find some helpful tips and must-have items when choosing or building your horses first aid kit.

Stocking Your First Aid Kit

First, you will need an airtight, waterproof container to keep the materials sterile and ready to use. A large fishing tackle box or sewing box, with lots of small compartments are options or you could use a tight-sealing plastic kitchen container (the transparent kind will let you easily see if it contains what you need). Get some bright red tape and mark the lid with a cross, then stock it with:

  • A rectal veterinary thermometer
  • A pair of safety scissors and an additional pair of small, sharp scissors.
  • A stethoscope
  • Self-sticking bandages, gauze squares, medical adhesive tape, and gauze bandages
  • Vaseline or another type of lubricating jelly
  • A cold pack
  • Stable bandages and quilts.
  • Alcohol swabs, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptic wound cream, antiseptic scrub, and spray-on wound treatment.
  • Latex gloves.
  • A flashlight
  • Saline solution
  • Sterile cotton
  • A bottle of rubbing alcohol
  • Forceps or tweezers
  • Epsom salts, iodine shampoo, and quick-to-apply poultice
  • Thick sanitary napkins
  • A hoof pick, farrier’s rasp, hoof knife, and nippers
  • A hoof knife.
  • Duct tape

Handy Extras

Here are a few items that might not fit in your first aid kit’s container but are helpful to have around the barn:

  • A twitch to divert your horse’s attention while you doctor his injuries.
  • A clean fly mask
  • An Easyboot or poultice boot
  • A couple of clean buckets designated only for first aid use.
  • Hoof testers
  • Material for a splint
  • A spider bandage
  • A snake bite kit
  • A wound cream with fly repellent properties
  • A tube of diaper rash cream, to protect heels from moisture
  • A tail wrap.
  • “Second skin” collagen bandages
  • Bute, or phenylbutazone, a mild non-steroidal pain medication that comes in pill, powder, or paste form. (Ask your vet before administering medication.)
  • A pocket first aid guide.

Injectable Medications

If you’re comfortable with the technique of giving intramuscular injections, it’s useful to keep a couple of injectable medications on hand as well. These drugs should be administered only after speaking with your veterinarian; never try to self-diagnose. (Check with your veterinarian about their storage requirements, too—some medications have to be refrigerated.)

  • Banamine (flunixin meglumine), which can be used to ease the discomfort of colic
  • Acepromazine, a tranquilizer that can make an injured horse easier to work with. (Acepromazine suspension, incidentally, can be administered orally; make sure to go over dosing instructions with your vet.) Again, don’t self-diagnose your horse; seek your veterinarian’s advice before giving any medications.

If you have injectables on your farm, you’ll also need sterile needles and syringes, which you can get from your veterinarian, feed store, or pharmacy. Make sure you know appropriate dosages for these medications, what gauge needle you should use, and under no circumstances reuse syringes or needles.

One for the Barn, Two for the Road

Having all of these handy first aid materials available at the barn is great, but they’ll do you no good if you find yourself with an injured horse at a horse show or out on the trail. So, consider assembling a second first aid kit that can stay in your truck or horse trailer, and a mini-kit to take with you when you’re going on a long ride. The trail riding first aid mini kit  can contain just the basics, for both horses and humans—Band-Aids, gauze, a Vetrap bandage, sunblock, a hoof pick, acetaminophen, a small pair of scissors—and a cell phone.

You can assemble one of these in a fanny pack or a small bag that can hang from your saddle dees (if you ride English) or the horn (if you ride Western).

Any first aid kit should include a sturdy card with emergency phone numbers—your veterinarian, your farrier, the closest veterinary and human hospital, a horse rescue or ambulance service (if there is one in your area), the fire department, and the police. It’s important to have an inventory, as well, that you can tape to the inside lid of your kit. Type a list of every ingredient in the kit, so you’ll be able to see at a glance if it contains what you need. When you use up an item, cross it off the list—then be sure to replace it!

A final caution: even the best-equipped first aid kit is intended only to help you deal with minor injuries and health problems. You should not expect it to cover major medical crises. Any situation you can’t quickly and confidently treat, consult your veterinarian immediately!

The expert team of experts at Carolina Equine Hospital in Guilford County are dedicated to providing comprehensive treatment for all of your horse’s health needs. If you would like to schedule an appointment, call 336.349.4080, or book an appointment with us online.