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It seems like our horses are always trying to find new and inventive ways to hurt themselves. It never fails that when I just finish paying off one vet bill, the next vet bill comes in because somebody decided to run through the fence or gash their face open or colic. One thing we can do, however, is to be prepared for those emergencies when they happen. This not only helps the horse, but helps you, the owner, stay calm because you already have everything you need and can treat your animal while you wait for your vet to arrive. So here are a few supplies you should have on hand, and what you can do for your horse in certain emergencies while you wait.

In your emergency kit you should have:

  • 1 dose Banamine (flunixin meglumine)
  • Bute (phenylbutazone)
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic spray
  • 1 tube of eye ointment
  • Non-stick bandage (Telfa™) or gauze squares
  • 3 gauze rolls
  • 1 roll sheet cotton, 12” tall by 18” long
  • 3 Vetrap ™
  • 1 small bottle of Betadine
  • Digital thermometer
  • Pliers or wire cutters
  • Flashlight

Now, while you’re waiting for the vet to arrive, there are some things you can do to prepare no matter what the emergency. First off, make sure the horse in question is caught and up in a stall or small pen that is easy to get to. In emergencies, it’s nice to be able to pull the vet truck right up to the barn or into the pasture where the horse is if the ground is dry enough. Make sure there is plenty of light. Nothing is worse than trying to sew up a horse by the light of a headlamp. Bring extension cords and work lights, flashlights, or headlights into the area where the vet will be working if there is no electricity. Make sure that your barn/house/driveway/pasture area is visible from the road. Finding a new place is hard enough, and in the dark it can be almost impossible to locate a driveway if it’s not marked very well. Turn on as many lights as you can, and if possible, station someone out at the road who can flag down the vet as they drive by. If nothing else, put a car or truck at the end of the driveway with the headlights on to indicate where the vet should go when they arrive.

So what do we do to help our horse in the 1-2 hours it’s going to take our vet to get there? Well that depends on the emergency. Here are the most common emergencies we see and what you should do about them while you wait:

CUTS AND LACERATIONS

Clean the cut well with betadine and water. Apply antibiotic ointment down into the wound or use antiseptic spray. If it is bleeding profusely, you will need to pack cotton down into the wound, place a layer of cotton on top, and wrap tightly with Vetrap or an ace bandage to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. This can be left on for 2-4 hours to get the bleeding under control, and then a regular bandage can be applied. A clean maxi-pad or diaper may also be used.

HOW TO APPLY A BANDAGE:

  1. Apply a layer of antibiotic ointment to the wound
  2. Cover the wound with a non-stick pad
  3. Wrap a layer of sheet cotton over the pad
  4. Wrap a gauze roll over the sheet cotton to hold the pad and cotton in place
  5. Place Vetrap™ over the gauze and cotton for a secure bandage

Check out our Youtube channel for videos on how to wrap wounds!

COLIC

If the horse is pawing, lying down, or rolling repeatedly, then he probably has colic. Colic is a broad term meaning “bellyache” in horses. This can be caused by gas, food being stuck, the gut not working, or sometimes a twisted gut. If your horse is exhibiting these signs:

  1. Take away all feed and hay, water is ok
  2. Give Banamine orally. If you have liquid, give 1cc per 100 pounds body weight (a 1000# horse would get 10cc). If you have paste, the dose is marked on the tube.
  3. Walk the horse slowly for 1 hour (it will take about an hour for the Banamine to work), but don’t continually walk all night as this will just exhaust the horse
  4. If the horse is feeling better in 1 hour, he can have some grass and water (no feed or hay)
  5. Monitor closely for 24 hours. If the horse is still exhibiting signs of discomfort or pain at any point in the following 24 hours after the Banamine, CALL THE VET!

NAIL IN FOOT

If you discover a nail in the foot or hoof, DO NOT PULL IT OUT! Call your vet immediately and have them x-ray the foot first. There are many structures within the hoof capsule that are very sensitive to infection. If one of those is affected by a nail, it can cost your horse his life.

EYE INJURY

If your horse has one eye squinting, half closed, and tearing, he probably has a scratch on the cornea or is experiencing eye pain. Call your vet within 24 hours (DON’T WAIT AND SEE!!!), as a corneal scratch can deteriorate rapidly (in as little as 2 days) and then it becomes a race to save the eye.

  1. Eye ointment can be applied in the affected eye at the discretion of your veterinarian (make sure it does not have dexamethasone in it!!!) Acceptable ointments include Triple Antibiotic (neomycin, polymyxin, bacitracin), SSD, or Itraconazole.
  2. Give Banamine orally

CHOKE

Excessive drooling, feed or saliva coming out the nose, or the horse tensing up his neck really tight can indicate that your horse is choking. He is allowed to try to clear it himself for 20-30 minutes. After 20-30 minutes, if he’s still choking, it’s time for the vet to come out and help. Banamine can be given orally while you wait, even if he can’t swallow it.

If there is ever any doubt as to whether it’s an emergency, call your veterinarian right away. They’ll be able to help you determine if it requires an after-hours call or not.