As per a request from my Mum here is a post about equine first aid. It took me a while to figure out where to start, as first aid is such a minefield and full of myths and old wives tales.
I thought the best place to start would be talking about what is in your first aid kit at the yard. Depending on the size of the yard or the number of horses the first aid kit will vary slightly. This list is by no means conclusive, and feel free to add any more suggestions.
My first aid kit is kept in my cupboard in a plastic lidded container. So what do I, personally, have?
– Thermometer. This is fairly obvious really, but did you know the horses temperature should be about 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.5 degrees Celsius. In theory. But you should be aware that their temperature fluctuates according to seasons, time of day, hormonal cycle and exercise. Some horses naturally run a bit cooler than others. The BHS say you should record your horses temperature for a week and use that to compare any future readings. I work on a slightly different method, and take his temperature when I remember (which isn’t as often as it should be) and record it in the notebook with the time and date. This means that I have a variety of readings, in theory covering all variations in his temperature, which I can compare to if I think he’s under the weather.
– Notebook. This is just where I jot down any illnesses or wounds and how I treated them, as well as regular vital stats readings. Obviously I also have a pen.
– Scissors. There’s nothing more infuriating than going to treat a wound and spending half an hour trying to find a pair of sharp scissors, and then upon finding them cleaning them. Pocket knives are nowhere near as good at shaping animalintex, believe me …
– Iodine spray. This has a long shelf life, so I great for the one horse owner. Can be used to treat thrush, and some wounds. I avoid using it on wet wounds as it is a liquid, for them wound powder is better as it dries them up and helps the stabbing process.
– Wound Powder. This is really useful for most cuts or grazes, you can pack the cut with powder once it’s clean and is great for stopping bleeding. However, the nozzles always get damp so the powder gets stuck. This calls for Operation Safety Pin. Once the nozzle is clear you can have great fun aiming the powder at that hard to reach cut and poofing over it. One particularly memorable incident involved a cut high up on the inside of a hind leg and a very grumpy gelding.
– Antiseptic Cream. This comes in a variety of forms, the cheapest being good old Sudocrem, although there are many equine versions. The water repellent ones are very useful for smothering cracked heels or the first signs of mud fever.
– Vaseline. Used with the thermometer, but also on split lips or any other area which needs softening.
– Weightape. Used for monitoring the weight of your horse. They aren’t as accurate as weigh bridges but are useful when used in conjunction. A lot of liveries I know use the weigh bridge annually and simultaneously measure their horses with the tape. They can then relates the tape reading to the actual weight, and can see any fluctuation through the seasons.
– Animalintex. Used for poulticing, make sure you have at least a half because there’s nothing more annoying than starting to do a hoof poultice and finding you only have enough animalintex for half the wound. You can buy hoof shaped pads, but these give you less material for more money!
– Vetwrap. Self sticking bandage, great for poulticing or covering a wound. The horse still has good mobility and the bandage is pretty secure. Comes in a variety of colours, including leopard print or zebra stripes.
– Carrier Bag. Used between the animalintex and the Vetwrap of a wet poultice to help keep the heat and moisture in, thus increasing the drawing effect.
– Duct Tape. If you don’t use it round the sole of a hoof poultice the poultice wears thin within minutes and your horse can get straw and muck into the wound. Not good.
– Cotton Wool. Obviously used for cleaning cuts, stopping nosebleeds (horse or human), wiping gunky eyes, etc.
– Hibi Scrub. Or as a colleague of mine calls it Hippy Scrub. Not many people know its strength, and that when used in concentrated dose actually breaks down the tissues of the wound. For this reason if you suspect the wound needs stitches you should NEVER use Hibi scrub when cleaning and investigating it.
– Safety Pin. For helping keep bandages in place, affixing jackets when that rogue button pops off, and for clearing the nozzle of wound powder bottles.
– Stable Bandages and Gamgee. I don’t keep them in the first aid kit as eyre too bulky, but they are for bandaging over Vetwrap bandages to protect them, for supporting the legs – the injured leg particularly if there is a suspected tendon damage, and the uninjured leg as it will be taking more height while the horse rests the bad limb. Can also be used for knee and hock bandages, but make sure your stable bandages are long enough for bandaging the joints.
– Cooling Clay. For coating the limbs after cross country or fast work, and if you suspect tendon or ligament injury. Once the clay is on cover them in plastic bags or paper, to keep the coldness in, and then bandage the limbs for support.
– Homeopathic remedies. I have a couple of these given to me by a fellow livery and homeopathist. There is an incident which means I believe them to be effective in oh more situations, but that’s a story for another day.
– Antiseptic Wipes. These are for the humans before treating any wounds.
– Latex Gloves. Again, for the humans if treating a particularly nasty messy wound.
– Clean Bowl. My preference is an old Celebrations tin from Christmas. Partly because it’s plastic and mainly because they are the best selection box on the market. Don’t forget the lid because that keeps the inside clean and stops it getting dust when not in use.
I think that covers my first aid kit, most yards have a set of farrier tools which are useful in an emergency but at the same time, removing a shoe is harder than you think, even if it’s only hanging on by a nail. Some people have medication, such as bute, but unless your horse has a recurring problem, you run the risk of the meds expiring before you use them. This is the same to a certain extent with creams and powders, which is why you should only have enough for what you need. Although buying bigger containers is usually more economic, is your miniature Shetland really going to use 1L of Hibi scrub?
If anyone has any other suggestions for their first aid kit then comment below.