First aid: Resuscitation

Everyone involved with horses should know how to give mouth-to-mouth (rescue breaths) and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) as it could mean the difference between life and death for an unconscious rider who has stopped breathing.

Rescue breaths

First, assess the casualty to see if they are breathing. If they are not breathing and you are accompanied send someone to get help, then start giving rescue breaths.

Open their airway by tilting the head back and lifting the chin. Pinch the soft part of the nose with a finger and thumb. Make a secure seal around the casualty’s mouth with your lips and blow steadily into the mouth until the chest rises (about 2secs).

Maintaining the head position and while still pinching the nose, take your mouth away and watch to see if the chest falls. You have successfully given a rescue breath if you can see the chest rise and fall as you blow.

Give two rescue breaths and check for circulation by looking, listening and feeling for breathing, coughing or movement, but for no more than 10secs. If there are signs of circulation, perform another 10 breaths and check circulation again.

Repeat this cycle until the casualty starts to breath for themselves, when you can place them in the recovery position, or the signs of circulation stop, at which point you need to begin CPR.

If the face is too damaged to give mouth-to-mouth, you can give rescue breaths via the nose, as long as the mouth remains closed.

Giving CPR

Kneel beside the casualty, and with the index and middle fingers of your hand nearest their feet, find one of their lowest ribs on the side nearest to you.

Slide your fingers along the rib until it meets the breastbone. Place your middle finger at this point and your index finger beside it on the lower breastbone.

Place the heel of your other hand at the top of the breastbone and slide it down to meet your index finger. This is the point at which you should apply pressure. Put the heel of your first hand on top of the second hand and interlock your fingers.

Start compressions by leaning over the casualty with your arms straight and pressing down vertically on the breastbone. Depress the chest by about 4-5cm then release the pressure, but don’t remove your hands.

Repeat the compressions at a rate of 100 compressions per minute in a steady rhythm. After 15 compressions, tilt the head, lift the chin and give two rescue breaths as before.

Repeat this cycle of 15 compressions and two rescue breaths until the casualty moves or breaths on their own, help arrives or you are too exhausted to continue.

If you are alone with the casualty, perform 1min of resuscitation before leaving them to get help.

  • For more information on learning first aid skills contact the St John Ambulance or visit: www.sja.org.uk
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