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What to have in your Horse First Aid Kit

Have you got a Horse First Aid Kit? Maybe it’s on your to-do list to put one together. 

So what do you actually need in your Horse First Aid Kit? You don’t need a hundred and one products, and I have broken this down into products to clean with, products to apply to a wound, basic bandaging materials, a poultice kit and a few extra items.

 

  1. Products to clean with

Gloves are certainly worth including in your kit, they will protect you when cleaning up a nasty wound but also prevent your horse picking anything up from you.

Gauze swabs are ideal for cleaning wounds, and much better than cotton wool as they don't leave any residue in the wound. You don't need specific equine swabs, and you can easily buy these online. A zip lock bag is a handy addition to store the spare ones in, and it will help you keep them clean as well.

In a busy yard you'd think that you'd always be able to find a bucket, but having a specific bucket, or large pot specifically marked for first aid use only is a handy addition to your kit. Not only will this be a clean bucket, but it will stop it being 'borrowed' as well.

Saline solution is ideal for cleaning wounds, and you can buy pre-prepared solutions or make up your own, just add a teaspoon of salt to a pint of cooled boiled water. A large syringe can be helpful to help flush a wound out with saline solution, and is useful to include in your kit.

We recommend saline solution over hibiscrub for cleaning wounds with, as hibiscrub is very strong, and can actually cause damage to the ‘good cells’ and delay healing. Hibiscrub is best left for very very dirty wounds, or to be used on advice of your vet.

 

2. Products to put on a wound

The ideal product for a wound is hydrogel, this will keep the wound moist and you can't do any harm with it. Contradictory to what many owners think the vast majority of wounds actually need to be kept moist and wounds don’t need to be ‘dried out’ to heal. Another product you could try is Flamazine, which is only available from your vet but is also very healing and soothing. Flamazine has great efficacy against common pathogens such streptococcus and e coli, and like hydrogel it is kind to a wound, and help keeps it moist. Remember you are only treating fairly basic superficial wounds yourself, and if in any doubt you should be seeking the advice of your vet. You can’t make a wound heal faster, you are just trying to create the best healing environment for the wound.

So once you have cleaned the wound with saline solution pop some hydrogel on and then cover the wound with a non stick dressing.

Melolin is ideal for this, or if you're stuck you could use animalintex. You must use something that won't stick to the wound otherwise you will be simply removing all the new cells when you remove the dressing. Melolin is the top choice as it is inexpensive, widely available and comes in an array of sizes.

 

3. The basic bandage

Having covered the wound you need a simple bandage to keep it all in place.

Over your non-stick dressing you need a secondary layer, which is basically padding before the top layer which conforms the bandage, and holds it all together.

Owners are often surprised that you need a secondary layer, but it is essential that a bandage provides smooth even pressure, and has no lumps, bumps or pressure points.

For padding you can use a roll of cotton wool (cut it in half, or buy a half size roll), or a very easy to use product is soffban.

Soffban is basically very soft, fine cotton wool rolled up like an exercise bandage. It's great to use because it's easy to apply and if you pull it too hard it breaks, so you can't do any harm with it.

Next add a top layer, vet wrap is fine just be careful not it make it too tight, avoid any wrinkles and overlap by half the width with each turn of the bandage.

Ensure you have covered the lower leg (assuming this is where the cut is) from under the knee to the top of the hoof, as this will spread out pressure evenly.

Other items that you might find helpful to have in your horse first aid kit include a torch, or head torch, because horses being horses not everything happens in the daylight.

Nicola Kinnard-Comedie

4. The Poultice Kit

Dealing with a hoof abscess is a challenge that most owners will face, so having the necessary kit to hand is really helpful. Once an abscess has been identified, and cut out by your vet or farrier a poultice will help drain out the remaining infection. Soaking the foot before poulticing can be helpful to soften it, and epsom salts can be useful to help draw out infection.

To create a poultice animalintex is a very useful product to apply, simply cut the dressing to size, briefly soak in cooled boiled water and place on the affected area. Next you need to secure this in place, vetwrap is helpful for this, and some owners like to use a nappy to hold the dressing in place. Duct tape is then used over the top to keep the poultice in place.

 

5. Other essential items to include

Other items that you might find helpful to have in your horse first aid kit include a torch, or head torch, because horses being horses not everything happens in the daylight. Whilst many mobile phones have a torch these aren’t always that bright, and what happens when your battery runs out?!

A thermometer is certainly essential to include in your kit, establishing a baseline temperature for your horse is a great way to know normal for your horse and can be very helpful information for your vet in the event of your horse being unwell.

 

About the author

Nicola Kinnard-Comedie owns and runs NKC Equestrian Training, a training company providing Horse First Aid Courses across the UK (and online) together with qualified vets. These workshops are designed for horse owners to update their knowledge on preventative health care, wounds, colic and infectious diseases. Just like with human first aid recommendations change over the years, and these courses are the perfect opportunity to ask the vet lots of questions and enjoy a relaxed day of training.

You can download an easy to use Horse First Aid Kit checklist from NKC Equestrian Training.

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