Owning a horse is a huge responsibility, and you should be prepared for any eventuality. It is likely that at some point your horse will become unwell, and having an equine first aid kit on hand will help you to care for your horse as best as possible.
If you suspect there is something seriously medically wrong with your horse, please do not attempt to treat it yourself. Contact a qualified veterinarian or veterinary surgeon for advice and assistance.
Gloves are a vital component of any first aid kit. They are used to provide a sterile surface to work with. This will prevent bacteria from your hands from entering your horse’s wound. It will also protect you from picking up any harmful microbes from your horse.
Gauze swabs are used to clean open wounds to limit the risk of infection. They are generally preferred to cotton wool, as they do not break down and leave small fibers on the wound surface. You do not need to purchase specifically designed equine gauze swabs, those designed for use on humans will do the job perfectly.
We would advise grabbing a ziplock bag to keep alongside these. You can use this to store clean swabs to ensure no contaminants enter the gauze. This will also ensure that all of the gauze swabs remain in the same place.
In a yard, you may assume that it will always be simple to find a spare bucket. This is not always the case, and it never hurts to have a spare, clean bucket on hand to use for first aid. Having a specially dedicated bucket will also massively cut down on the contamination risk.
Saline solution is a combination of salt and water, often containing around 0.9% salt. This is the same concentration as is found in tears and in blood. It is typically used to clean and sterilize wounds to prevent infections from setting in.
You can easily purchase premixed saline solutions in most drugstores. If you prefer to make your own, boil a pint of water and allow it to cool. Mix in a teaspoon of salt and decant into sterilized bottles for storage.
Some people prefer to use hibiscrub to clean wounds. This is an antimicrobial skin cleanser with hospital strength. It can be effective for up to 6 hours post-application, making it very strong and powerful.
Many people prefer not to use it for this reason, as the strength can cause damage to healthier cells and extend the healing period. We advise only using hibiscrub on incredibly dirty wounds, or on the advice of your veterinarian.
Hydrogel Or Flamazine
Hydrogel is a 3D network of hydrophilic (water-loving) polymers that can absorb and hold a large amount of liquids for an extended period. It has a soft consistency, a high water content, and is very porous.
This is similar in genetic makeup to living body tissues, which is why they are commonly used in medical applications, such as wound dressings.
Hydrogels will increase the moisture content of the wound and the cool, high water content will help to alleviate pain levels. It can be applied to gauze wound dressings to prevent the gauze from adhering to the surface of the wound.
Flamazine is a similar product that is a topical antibiotic cream, filled with sulphonamides. This is commonly used to treat burns as it is soothing and highly antimicrobial. It is particularly effective against Streptococcus and E. Coli.
Melolin or Animalintex are your best options here. Melolin is an incredibly absorbent padding made from cotton and acrylic fibers. This is then heat-bonded to a thin perforated polyester film layer. This side is placed directly onto the surface of the wound for healing.
Melolin is very easily accessible, inexpensive, and can be purchased in a huge range of dimensions.
Animalintex is a specially designed veterinary poultice dressing. It works as a cold poultice and can reduce stiffness, swelling, and pain. It can also be used as a hot poultice to draw infections out of abscesses.
It can also be used as an antiseptic dry dressing. It is very multifunctional but is more expensive and harder to source than Melolin.
This padding is used as a secondary layer over the top of the non-adhesive dressing. This is often overlooked but the padding is an important element of wrapping a wound.
It prevents the bandage from having pressure inconsistencies and pressure points, which could cause further injury to the horse. This will also prevent lumps and bumps from appearing in the dressing.
Cotton wool or Soffban are common choices to use for padding. Soffban is smooth orthopedic padding designed to increase the cushioning and protection of the wound. It is very soft and malleable, meaning it can easily be shaped around awkward joints.
Soffban appears similar to cotton wool and tends to come in a roll. It can easily be torn with your hands, meaning no scissors are required.
Vet wrap is a type of self-adhesive bandage that is incredibly stretchy and flexible. It is highly durable and supportive, while simultaneously being able to apply enough pressure to staunch wound bleeding. Provided it is applied correctly and has the support of gauze and padding underneath, it will not cut off blood circulation.
Vet wrap is not designed to be left on your horse for an extended period of time. It will need to be changed and replaced regularly.
This is applied as a top layer of a wound dressing and you should try to avoid wrinkling the bandage during application. Try to cover a large area of your horse’s limb with the bandage, as this helps to spread out the pressure more evenly.
This is a necessary element of your first aid kit, as it is what you will use to treat hoof abscesses. These are very common in horses and it is unlikely that you will be able to bypass dealing with them at some point.
It is a good idea to include some Epsom salts in your poultice kit. Add these to your first aid bucket and fill it with water. Soak the infected hoof in this liquid for a little while to draw out some of the infection. This will also help to soften the hoof, making treatment easier.
Cut a sheet of Animalintex to the desired size and soak it for a few seconds in cooled, boiled water. Place this on top of the abscess and use some vet wrap to secure it in place. Some people even like to top this off with a clean, unused diaper to secure the dressing. Finally, cover the entire region with duct tape to keep the poultice still.
Illness waits for no man, and it is likely that at some point one of your horses will become unwell at an inconvenient time. If your horse becomes unwell at night, a head torch will be very useful to provide light for evaluations and working.
This is a really useful item to keep in any first aid kit. Raised temperatures and fevers are symptoms of many different diseases and it is nice to be able to monitor the health of your horse in this way. It is also good to know the standard baseline temperature of your horse, as this can help you spot issues sooner.
It is a good idea to have an assortment of syringes included in your equine first aid kit. We recommend including a large syringe for use with your saline solution. This can be used to flush out wounds for a more thorough clean.
Keeping a physical medical record for your horse(s) is not necessary, although you may find that it is very useful to have on hand. Budget Equestrian has created a printable equine medical record form that we find very handy.
It contains sections for all the baseline statistics for your horse, as well as areas to fill in their medical checks and issues alongside the date.
The form also covers vaccination records, dental records, parasite control, hoof care, breeding records, and feeding information. We also recommend keeping a vital signs sheet too. In the case of a medical emergency, this will be an invaluable resource.
It is also a good idea to keep a hoof pick, boot, and penknife in your kit. We also recommend keeping scissors and a variety of tapes on hand. All of these will come in handy.