First aid for horse owners

First aid for your horse is a really important tool to have, especially if you're waiting for your vet to arrive. Follow our tips below to make sure you're prepared if your horse isn't himself.

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If you think your horse isn't his usual self, check to see if his temperature, pulse and respiration rates are normal.

Check these regularly and keep a record of his normal TPR rates to hand so you can compare.

Temperature

When checking your horse's temperature, ask someone to hold him for you.

Stand to the side of his hindquarters, not directly behind.

Gently lift his tail and insert the thermometer a few inches into his rectum and hold onto the far end for one minute.

The normal temperature for a horse is between 37.5 to 38.5 degrees centigrade. 

Pulse 

The easiest pulse to take on your horse is the artery that runs over his jaw bone.

Feeling the pulse here can take practise as it has a habit of moving away from your fingers, but with persistence, this is an effective method. 

Your horse's normal heart rate should be around 20 to 40 beats per minute.

Painful conditions such as colic and laminitis can elevate this. 

Respiratory rate 

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There are two ways you can measure how many breaths your horse is taking.

The first is to count how many times the nostrils flare and the second is by watching his ribs move up and down.

This technique needs practice as it can be hard to measure.

The normal breathing rate is eight to 12 breaths per minute. 

Horses who have a high breathing rate at rest may be showing signs of chest infections or allergies. 


What to do if your horse has an eye injury

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Always call the vet if your horse has an eye injury as untreated ones can become infected and, in extreme cases, lead to the horse losing his sight in that eye.

Signs on an eye injury can include:

  • The eye may be swollen or half shut with excessive tearing and blinking
  • It will be painful to the touch
  • There may be a visible injury

Call your vert immediately and keep your horse calm and still until the vet arrives. If anything is sticking out of the eye, leave it there until the vet gets there. 


How to treat wounds 

Try to stay calm if your horse gets injured, however big or small the cut.

You first step should be to secure the horse, keep him calm and still and gently wash the wound with water, either from a hose on a slow trickle, or squirted from a plastic  syringe.

Once it's clean, you can inspect and assess the damage, though don't be tempted to gunk up the wound with antiseptic cream.

Keep it clean and let nature take its course, or lightly bandage until the vet arrives if it's more serious.

Wounds near a joint or tendon can be very serious - even if they look minor - as damage here can be life-threatening, so ring your vet for advice. 

Obvious lameness that's caused by an innocuous wound can indicate a more serious injury beneath the surface. 

A heavily bleeding wound may need stitching, so apply pressure to the cut before your vet arrives and bear in mind that discreet puncture wounds may look small but can be serious or hide something that's embedded. 


If you suspect a fracture in your horse

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A fracture, especially of the leg, used to mean euthanasia. 

However, with advances in veterinary surgery, many are now treatable. 

A break may not be immediately obvious and your horse might just look severely lame, so call your vet if you're worried. 

While a serious fracture will be obvious, with the bone sometimes protruding from the body, other fractures can be less clear to see.

Your horse may be very distressed and sweaty due to extreme pain, and lameness can be extreme to moderate. Swelling is also likely.

Call your vet straight away and don't move your horse until they arrive unless it's absolutely necessary.

If it's a bad fracture, your horse may be in shock so make sure to cover him with a blanket and calmly watch him until help comes. 


First aid kit essentials

  • Blunt-ended scissors 
  • Thermometer
  • Self-sticking crepe bandages 
  • Cotton wool
  • Swabs 
  • Gloves 
  • Torch 
  • Wire citters
  • Paper towel or kitchen roll
  • Gamgee
  • Poultice
  • Salt
  • Small plastic bowl