A Johnny Depp in the making

XL Equine vet Imogen Burrows

XL Equine vet Imogen Burrows

XL Equine Vet Imogen Burrows, BVetMed CertAVP(EM) MRCVS RCVS tells us about treating Minstral who takes on the appearance of a pirate thanks to his strategically placed bandage.

Another day, another case to see. Today I was called out to attend poor old Mistral, who while out grazing with his buddies, appeared to have had an altercation with a gate - or so we think.

First aid for owners is something we are very passionate about at Cliffe Equine and we have run several First Aid Equine Skills course for owners and riders with great success. Luckily for Minstral, the yard manager was clearly up to date with her first aid skills and was able to help a great deal prior to my arrival.

The yard manager artistically placed the badges over Minstral's wound

The yard manager artistically placed the badges over Minstral's wound

Having been told Minstral had incurred a cut below his left eye that may require a stitch, I was not quite sure what to expect. Depending on the level of experience of the people around the horse involved in the incident at the time, perceptions of wound severity vary dramatically. What is catastrophic and life threatening to some folk, is merely a flesh wound to another. Having turned up to many “May need a stitch…” cases in my career to find either a horse with half its flank hanging off, and in equal measure, been embarrassed to have to coyly ask where the injury is on the patient - I have learned not to judge until I see the injury itself.

I asked the yard manager whether the wound had had any attention and or if the horse had been given any medication as yet. Luckily, Minstral had been given ideal care so far and this will have stood him in very good stead as far a wound healing goes.

Minstral's wound was now evident when the bandage was moved

Minstral's wound was now evident when the bandage was moved

The yard manager had noticed blood on Minstral’s left front leg, and as she observed him rubbing his face on his knee, she quickly found the wound on his face. Knowing that flies were irritating him and he was further traumatising the wound, she took him up to his stable, cross-tied him to prevent him rubbing his face further and flushed out the wound with a very dilute chlorehixidine solution.

Cautious that the flies were not able to contaminate the wound further, she them proceeded to bandage his face. Unfortunately, the wound was on the widest section of his nose and as such, she watched his dismay as her beautiful expensive self-adhesive bandage slid sadly down his muzzle. Not deterred by this, the yard manager leapt into action again, creating a masterful solution to the problem with what can only be described as a bandage fit for Pirates of the Carribean!

Minstrel's wound was quite significant that it required stitching

Minstrel's wound was quite significant that it required stitching

As I was led into the barn to find my patient, Minstral could not be missed! Happy as larry, nibbling away on his haynet, I asked if he was normally so docile and compliant to deal with - concerned with a head injury he could be concussed. I was informed with great gusto, that the only reason Minstral was a little out of sorts was because he wasn’t able to lie down for his regular morning nap!

With great sadness, and much commendation for the yard manager’s first aid actions, I took off the masterpiece of bandaging in front of me and inspected the wound. Down to the bone, but without damaging it, it was clear it was a nasty gash approximately two inches long that required stitching together.

Because of the quick actions of the yard manager, I was faced with a lovely, fresh and clean, minimally contaminated wound to repair, and I have every anticipation that this should heal without complication or scarring. A shame in a way as there will be no mark left as a testament to his alter-ego Captain Jack Sparrow!!

Flushing out the wound with clean water or saline solution can help

Flushing out the wound with clean water or saline solution can help

Prompt attention to wounds is critical for the best outcome. Flushing with copious volumes of clean water, dilute chlorhexidine or ideally saline solution is something most owners can do safely while awaiting the vet. Homemade saline is simple - use a pinch of salt in a pint of boiled, but cooled water ideally - remember dilution is the solution to pollution. Good fly repellency by spraying the horse liberally, placing them in a stable and or use of a bandage where possible is useful, as is distracting the horse from further irritating or traumatising the wound by providing a haynet, cross-tying them or again bandaging the affected area. First Aid Equine Skills courses are provided at several XLEquine vet practices throughout the UK each year and are open to clients of that practice and non-clients alike. At £60 for a half day’s interactive and practical training they provide the best value veterinary course for equine owners I think is out there - have a look if there’s one near you and sign up!