What’s in your horse’s first aid kit?
The basics – medical supplies:
- Scissors (Bandage scissors are best as they greatly reduce the chance of you poking or cutting your horse!)
- Nitrile/rubber gloves (for use with some of the topicals listed below)
- Syringes (various sizes with and without needles. Useful for flushing wounds in addition to administering medications).
The basics – wound care:
- Alcohol or first-aid wipes
- Animalintex or other poultice wrap
- Clean towel or rags (keep in a Ziploc bag to keep clean!)
- Diapers or maxi pads (for abscesses and wounds)
- Duct tape/Gorilla tape
- Gauze pads and wrap
- Plastic wrap (for sweating sprains/strains)
- Standing or polo wraps (Practice correct use of polos!)
- Vet wrap
Note card with emergency contact information and your horse’s normal TPR.
- TPR = Temperature, Pulse, respiration
- Normal Temperature should be 99-101; Pulse for adult horses at rest 28-48 beats per minute; Respiration for an adult horse at rest, 8-14 breaths per minute. Know your horse’s normal!
- Ophthalmic ointment
*These medications should be provided by and administered under veterinary direction only. Medicating a horse prior to veterinarian’s arrival can make proper diagnosis more difficult. Improper administration of prescription medications can further sicken or kill an animal.
Over the Counter medications:
- Desitin or other zinc-based cream
- DMSO (use gloves!)
- Epsom salt or gel
- Ichthammol and/or Tomorrow
- Triple antibiotic ointment
- Sterile saline solution or eye wash
- Alushield bandage spray
- Corona ointment
- Furazone (use gloves!)
- Swat or other cream/paste fly repellent (for use around wounds).
- Wonder Dust
- Wound Kote
- Your go-to favorite, IE Schreiners, Spurr’s Big Fix, That Blue Stuff, etc.
It’s important to remember that some of these items have expiration dates! Both prescription and non-prescription medications will expire within a year or 2. It’s also important to consider that medications should NOT be stored in the extreme heat/cold of your horse trailer’s tack room! It is best to store your first aid kit in your house or climate-controlled tack room and take it with you when you leave for a show or trail ride. This greatly helps prolong the shelf life of many of your items!
We included prescription medications on this list for a reason. Experienced horse owners know that with colic, tying up or acute lameness, having medication on-hand is a huge relief in an emergency. However, with administering these drugs comes the knowledge of HOW and WHEN to use them. Your vet can advise and teach you, and then guide you when you feel like your horse might need them. Never give a medication without understanding how it affects the body, what it treats, and what potential side effects may occur. Nowadays, your vet is likely a text message away – talk with them first!
We are not choosing sides when it comes to favorite topicals to use or keep on-hand. Our vet recommends Schreiners for minor wounds. I personally like Spurr’s Big Fix for its flexibility – it works on rain rot, thrush, open cuts and wounds, and I can use it on myself, too. I like That Blue Stuff lotion for scrapes and cuts that are partially healed, and I love their sheath cleaner much better than the well-known brand. Some topicals work better in certain situations than others; some can actually make proud flesh worse if over-used, while some can slow or impede healing if used improperly. It’s important to read the labels and understand what each product is intended to do so that you can understand when to use it.
A huge part of successfully treating and healing wounds is HOW you treat them, not WHAT you use. Most minor cuts and scrapes on the body are going to heal on their own no matter what you do – putting X product on it for 10 days until the hair starts to grow back just makes US feel better about it. More severe body cuts are going to need cold hosing and/or stitches, and time. Leg wounds are often in a class by themselves. Many times, there is not enough to stitch, so you are left with a wound you want to treat – and if you do too much or not enough, you get proud flesh. Never underestimate the power of cold hosing a couple times a day to begin the healing process – water is a great healer. You may or may not want or need to bandage; this is where the art of balancing healing with over-treating starts coming into play. We cannot overstate enough: When in doubt, call your vet for guidance!