Essential things for the horse in case of injury
• Insure the horse
• Cover the horse for tetanus
• First aid kit to hand
What should you do if your horse injures itself?
When you find your horse has injury try not to panic just try to ensure you do the best thing possible for the horse. The first thing to do is assess how bad the wound is? The most important thing is not to rule small wounds out especially if they are over the joints or tendons as these can be the most serious. If in doubt call the vet straight away. It is important to get a wound seen to straight away this ensures it gets the best treatment from the start. How long an injury will take to heal can be hugely influenced by what you do in the first minutes after a calamity. A few sensible actions can often cut literally months from recovery times but all too often, by the time a vet has been called, inappropriate ‘first aid’ has already been administered.
What to have in the basic first aid kit
• Bath and hand towels for applying pressure to slow or stop heavy bleeding
• Animal lintex
• Bandage materials
• Surgical tape and duct tape
• Tetanus can occur in a horse from the smallest scratch which is usually fatal for the horse. Ensuring the horse is vaccinated for this will rule it out.
• Have a good first aid kit to hand on the yard this will ensure you are ready for any injury that may occur.
• Avoid touching the wound, clipping or putting anything on it until the vet has been.
• If the wound is pumping blood put direct pressure onto until the vet arrives.
• Look for signs of shock these can be weakness, sweating, colic, elevated heart rate, pale mucus membranes.
The seriousness of puncture wounds depends on their depth, size, origin and location. A puncture wound can be tiny but very deep and can be deeper than first thought so seeking veterinary help is strongly advised. If the wound is bleeding but not very deep and has no debris left inside, slow or stop the bleeding by pressing on the spot with sterile gauze pads or a clean towel. If the bleeding has already stopped, clean the wound with a hose. In deeper puncture wounds or in cases where the object is still in the wound, the vet will probably X-ray the area before trying to remove the foreign body. Do not remove anything yourself.
Abrasions usually occur when a horse falls and skids, skinning her hip, leg or shoulder. If the wound is a simple abrasion, you can probably take care of it yourself, but check to make sure there are no punctures, lacerations, broken bones or other more serious damage before treating the skin damage. Clean abrasions with a hose to get rid of the dirt, grass or other particles, this will also reduce swelling to the area. Apply a disinfectant solution such as iodine, which will kill bacteria in and around the wound. Ensure this is done twice daily until the symptoms go. If your horse seems uncomfortable, you may want to get a prescription for an anti-inflammatory drug from your vet.
Lacerations are deep cuts that extend into the tissue below the skin, and usually need to be treated with antibiotics to prevent infection, so you should contact your vet. A laceration wound may require stitching and a course of antibiotics.
Injuries near joints
If your horse suffers a wound over the knee or another joint, you should contact your vet right away. The vet will determine whether the injury has affected the joint, and may use X-rays or other methods to check on the severity of the wound. If the horse goes very lame and stays lame then it has quite possibly gone into the joint which will require flushing under general anesthetic.
Ligament and tendon injuries
If there is no obvious wound to the leg but there is pain/swelling on the tendon area then it is possible that the horse has pulled a ligament/tendon. The first thing to do is cold hose the leg to try to reduce any swelling and heat in the area. Then put the horse into a stable and book it in for an ultrasound scan. The vet will determine the extent of the injury via an ultrasound image.
Wounds that are bleeding heavily involve important blood vessels and wounds that bleed in a pulsatile manner involve arterial damage. Both of these wounds need veterinary attention. Bleeding can be controlled temporarily by the application of a pressure bandage. A sterile absorbent dressing is applied directly to the wound with a pad of absorbent cotton dressing and this is bandaged firmly in place. The more your horse moves, the more the wound will bleed. Try to keep the horse as calm as possible before the vet arrives this means you staying calm as well.
The most important thing is if in doubt call the vet as soon as possible.