Accidents happen and horses can suddenly fall ill, so it’s important to have a well-stocked first-aid kit to hand. Ready-made kits may not contain all that is needed, but it’s easy to put together your own. Ideally, everything should be kept in a large, watertight plastic container, clearly labelled and stored in an easily accessible place so that everyone knows where to find it.
An equine emergency is not the time to discover that supplies are depleted or out of date, so replace items as you use them and give the kit a regular overhaul. It is also useful to have a second kit that can be taken away to competitions. Many vet practices will supply ready stocked first aid kits, so ask your vet.
1 Notepad and pen
For writing down any details that the vet may give you, or important contact details.
2 Useful telephone numbers
Keep the numbers of your vet and farrier in the kit (mobile phones cannot always be relied upon). If you do not have your own transport, add details of at least two local transporters in case a horse needs to be taken to a clinic for further assessment and treatment. This sometimes happens late at night, as an emergency, so don’t leave planning until the last minute.
3 Large torch
Good lighting is essential if an emergency occurs in the field or an unlit stable at night.
4 Pen torch or head torch
A narrow beam of bright light is useful for close assessment of wounds or hard-to-access areas. Some mobile phones have these as a built-in feature.
5 Large roll of cotton wool
Essential for cleaning wounds, applying pressure to stem blood flow or as an emergency leg bandage.
6 Large roll of gamgee
Enables a leg bandage to be applied quickly. Also useful as a pressure pad on an area that’s bleeding heavily.
Digital thermometers are easier and safer to use than the old-fashioned mercury versions — and are less easy to lose in a horse’s rectum! Can be bought from most pharmacies.
8 Blunt-ended scissors
Bandage-cutting scissors are ideal. If the patient moves suddenly, sharp scissors pose an injury risk to horse and handler.
9 Saline solution or spray
An optional extra for wound cleaning. Home-made saline (1tsp household cooking salt in approx 500ml cooled boiled water) or chlorhexidine solution (see below) can be used, or clean water for washing off mud and dirt if nothing else is available. Aquspray contains the correct concentration of saline, however, for cleaning wounds.
10 Chlorhexidine scrub
Chlorhexidine contains antibacterial properties for wound cleaning, but must be diluted to avoid damage to tissues that are not normally exposed to the outside world. When correctly used, just 0.05% should be added to clean, warm water. If the resulting solution is visibly pink, it is too strong.
Some form of hydrogel cream is useful for applying to the surface of cuts and grazes that do not require veterinary attention, particularly in areas that cannot be covered with a leg bandage, to form a superficial barrier against flies and dirt. An example is Vetalintex.
12 Clean tea towel or hand towel
Another useful pressure pad for heavy bleeding.
13 Small plastic bowl
Keep a container handy for wound-cleaning solutions.
14 Hand wipes or medical examination gloves
When dealing with wounds it is important to avoid contaminating the area with any bacteria from your own hands, and to clean your hands of blood and dirt afterwards. Examination gloves are ideal, but antiseptic or even baby wipes are useful if clean water and soap are not easily accessible for washing hands.
In the case of pus in the foot, this will soften the sole and encourage pus drainage.
A large (size five) disposable nappy makes a quick and easy dressing over the top of a foot poultice. Keep it in place with adhesive strips and then wrap the foot in duct tape to create a tough, waterproof covering.
Self-sticking bandages such as Vetwrap can be placed over a layer of gamgee to create a temporary bandage, or use exercise or stable bandages. Keep something in the kit to bandage your horse’s tail in case he develops colic and your vet needs to perform a rectal examination.
18 Duct or gaffer tape
Always comes in handy and makes a great outer layer for a foot dressing.
19 Penknife or multi-purpose tool
For cutting a horse loose from a haynet or baler twine, for example.
20 Pliers or wirecutters
A horse caught in wire can be freed quickly with the correct tool.
21 Tubigrip sleeve
An essential item for your travelling kit. Quality tubigrip enables ice to be placed over a limb, in the case of a suspected tendon strain, for example.
22 Electric extension lead
A helpful extra if the vet needs to use an X-ray or ultrasound machine, or clippers, at the yard.
23 First-aid book
A book covering the main conditions is a handy reminder of what — and what not — to do (see right). Your vet will be happy to advise you of first-aid measures over the phone and can assess whether or not your horse needs veterinary attention.
Ref Horse & Hound; 15 September 2016