One reason for designating a specific well-stocked container for first aid is because in an emergency with your horse, time is critical and you don’t want to waste a lot of it hunting around for a thermometer, sterile wraps or other necessities. This is especially important because there are going to be a lot of times when it’s going to take a little while for the veterinarian to get there. Plus,even if you have only one or two horses, you probably have collected various supplies that you store in different places. With a kit that you regularly check and update, you’ll know you have what you need when you need it.
The challenge with a kit is making sure it has only the items you need to tend to your horse until your vet arrives. You can store extra products and replacements for your kit in a larger medicine cabinet or chest. It’s also a good place to include a human first-aid kit as well, which you can buy ready-made or stock with simple items from a pharmacy, such as band-aids, triple antibiotic ointment, aspirin, hand sanitizer, etc.
In any emergency, having the right tools can make a big difference to a successful outcome. Basics to have on hand include:
- A flashlight (with working batteries) to effectively care for your horse on a dark night or dimly lit stall.
- A rectal thermometer, and a plastic digital version is safer around the barn than a typical glass model and gives faster readings.
- Small jar of Vaseline or other lubricant to help insert thermometers.
- Stethoscope to check heart rate and listen to gut sounds.
- Box of surgical latex gloves to help prevent wound contamination and keep your hands clean.
- Roll of duct tape—convenient to wrap a hoof because it is waterproof and durable.
- Bandage scissors with rounded ends to avoid cutting your horse when removing a bandage
- Hemostats or tweezers—handy to help remove a splinter or tick
- Wire cutters to free a horse from a fence.
- Sharp pocketknife to use if a horse is tied but down in the trailer, tangled in the cross-ties or has a foot stuck in a hay net.
- Cold pack to reduce swelling from an injury. A chemical pack that creates an “instant cold” is handy when ice or cold hosing isn’t available (you can wrap it around the injured area, if possible).
- Clean bucket to soak bruised or abscessed hooves or wash a wound.
- Clean bath-size towel to use as a large wound compression or to spread out as a sanitary field for small items.
- 60-cc dose syringes with a catheter tip for administering oral medications as well as smaller syringes and hypodermic needles for injections.
Horses can suffer a variety of wounds, and whether the situation requires an immediate call to your vet or is something you can treat yourself at home, you need supplies to quickly and gently clean and disinfect the wound. They include:
- 16-ounce bottle of antiseptic scrub such as Betadine (povidone iodine) or Nolvasan (chlorhexidine) for washing/disinfecting the wound
- 16-ounce bottle of hydrogen peroxide (useful for cleaning dirt or other debris out of a wound)
- Antiseptic wound cream, powder or spray-on treatment to prevent infection and encourage healing—but after cleaning a wound, always seek veterinary advice before applying a product.
- 16-ounce bottle of rubbing alcohol to sterilize instruments such as scissors or thermometers
- Package of premoistened alcohol swabs to clean small wounds and sites for injections
- 10-ounce bottle of saline solution (a bottle of contact-lens solution with a nozzle works well) for flushing hard-to-reach, delicate wounds, such as near an eye
- Small tube of triple-antibiotic eye ointment (nonsteroidal) that can be obtained from your veterinarian.
Once a wound is initially cleaned, you need various bandaging materials to cover it and keep it clean. You also want them on hand to stop bleeding quickly, which, depending on severity, you might need to get under control even before cleaning. Bandaging items include:
- Box of 200 nonstick sterile gauze squares (preferably 4-by-4 inch to clean and cover small wounds
- Two rolls of self-sticking bandages— such as Vetrap™—used to keep the gauze squares in place
- Roll of elastikon (strong, elastic cloth tape with a rubber-based adhesive)
- 4-inch gauze rolls for padding
- 2 rolls of cast padding (polyester padding for protection, comfort and to keep the bandaged area dry)
- 1–2 rolls of absorbent sterile sheet cotton or gamgee (a type of cotton field wrap sandwiched between two gauze sheets). Both of these typically come in 12-inch sizes and can be used as padding under a wrap or as a pressure pad to stop bleeding. Cotton should not be applied directly to an injury because it will stick. It is also useful to have on hand to help clean a wound.
- A clean set of pillow wraps and bandages for an outer protective and supportive wrap over an already bandaged wound or, when used in conjunction with poultice, to reduce heat and inflammation in a leg
- A couple thick sanitary napkins or diapers, useful for padding a wrapped foot.