Whether you stable your horse in a private livery yard, a riding school or with you at home, having a basic knowledge of first aid for both horse and rider is generally a good idea. Horses are such unpredictable animals and even with the quietest horse in the world accidents can happen.
While some injuries require immediate vet attention, there will be times when you can assess and treat the injury yourself. Below I will outline some common horse injuries & go through how to spot them and how to treat them.
How to tell if your horse isn’t feeling 100%
Looking after a horse can be much more difficult than looking after a child, and yes I am speaking from experience! Children can tell you what’s wrong with them by simply speaking, crying or even pointing to what hurts but with horses, unless there’s an obvious sign of injury, you really have no idea. Paying attention to their behaviour is key here. Are they eating their food? Are they drinking their water? Are they low in energy? Has their coat dulled? Has their behaviour when riding changed recently? If you’ve answered yes to more than one of these then it might be an idea to get a vet out just to be on the safe side.
One thing that can never be underestimated is the value of grooming your horse. Personally I groom Dante every time before I ride, it may only be a quick brush down, but it gives me a chance to feel for any new lumps, bumps or grazes. Your horses should be checked daily for signs of injury as part of their care routine, it only takes 5 minutes but it will ensure anything is caught straight away rather than it becoming an underlining issue.
Common Injuries & How To Treat Them
Grazes & Wounds
Small cuts are quite easy to treat. There are multiple creams, ointments and sprays that can be used to treat smaller grazes and wounds. My preference is Sudocream. Dante is commonly seen walking around the yard with dots of Sudocream on his legs. He is not the best traveller and always comes back from a show with some sort of graze to show for it, even if he does have a set of travel boots on!
Assessing & Treating Deeper Cuts
So what do you do if you find your horse in the field or stable with a bad cut and a significant amount of blood coming from it?
- First things first – Do Not Panic. Get in contact with your yard manager so that they can take a look and help you if needed.
- Your horse may be a bit shook from the injury so be sure to keep them still and calm. If your horse is in the field and they are capable of walking, get them in to the stable so you can assess the injury properly and determine what attention it needs.
- Once your horse is in, ask someone to hold the horse so you can assess how bad the wound is. If you don’t have anyone with you find somewhere to tie them up safely.
- Next you need to get a good look at how bad the cut is. If it doesn’t seem too deep, you should be ok to hose it down. Once clean, apply some antiseptic cream or ointment to help keep infection at bay.
However if it is a deep cut, your best bet is to clean it out with warm water and Epsom salts as hosing can result in other dust or dirt getting into the cut. Next I would definitely advise calling the vet as the cut may need a stitch and to be treated with some heavier weight anti-septic to ensure an infection doesn’t set in.
See above quite graphic images of Coco from last year, she went through quite the injury and recovery session. Read all about the ordeals Orla went through in her blog post What Goes Up, some great tips on creams & gels she used to get Coco back in tip top condition!
Lameness can be one of the most frustrating ailments for you and your horse. It can be caused by any number of reasons but unless the cause is glaringly obvious, the first port of call is to find out where the lameness is coming from by trotting your horse up.
When you trot your horse up, you’re looking to see if your horse bobs its head. If it does, you want to check on which foot it bobs its head. It can take some practice to read so it’s always best to have someone else there who can give a second opinion.
Causes of Lameness:
- Stone bruise
- Ligament or Tendon damage
- Muscle Strain (back, neck, shoulders etc.)
Depending on the cause of lameness you may need to either get a vet, a farrier or a physio out to look at your horse. If you’re not sure what the cause is, your vet is the best place to start.
If you’re ever unsure about how to treat your horse’s injury, your safest bet will always be to call the vet. You’re better off getting it looked at rather than just assuming it will be fine.
Basic Treatments Worth Learning
Applying A Poultice
A poultice is simply used to get rid/keep infection away from the injured area and to prevent it from further infection.
Applying a poultice can be done hot or cold. Applying a cold Poultice will help to reduce inflammation caused by bad falls, or bad kicks. Applying a Hot poultice will promote and increase blood supply to the affected areas, this will help draw out any infections. Remember, a hot poultice doesn’t mean piping hot, more like hot enough for you to warm your hands up off. To be honest everyone has their own preference so stick to what you know or what suits you best.
A few Tips for Applying:
- Make sure the area is dry, cut the poultice to size of the area you are treating and apply.
- Wrap a layer of soft padding, (Check out our Facebook Page for a very helpful video on using a babies nappy for this!) on top of the poultice and around the foot.
- Apply Vet Wrap or Duct Tape is commonly used to keep the bandage in place. The Duct Tape will also provide a waterproof layer on top.
- Keep a close eye on the poultice, as it will need to be changed once a day.
- Keep an eye on your horses legs, if the swelling rises up call your vet immediately, likewise if you are unsure of how to apply this dressing.
Bandaging is something I am actually shocking at, I wont lie. I need a lot more practice at doing it! They are great though, they help keep dressings in place. Bandages should always be done over padding, this will reduce pressure and keep it even all whilst providing 100% protection to the affected area. If your horse has injured his front left leg, it is advised to bandage the right front leg also! Likewise if the injury is on the back legs. Bandaging can be quite particular, not everyone can do it correctly and unfortunately practise does make perfect. A few tips below about bandaging,
- No Wrinkles in either bandages
- Must be applied over padding
- Your Bandage should Always fasten on the outer side of the leg
- Bandages that are too tight or left on too long may cause damage to the area such as hair loss
- Poorly applied bandages can cause serious damage especially if they start to slip down
If you decide to treat your horse yourself, be sure to keep an eye on them incase anything changes, such as, if the injury gets worse, your horse develops a fever or anything else that indicates their condition is deteriorating. And if this does happen, call your vet immediately.
First Aid Kit For the Horse: The Basics you should have
I have slowly been building up a collection of products for Dante! Having young horses also means having to deal with a number of injuries due to either careless behaviour or silly baby moments from your youngster! If you yourself feel like you need to start up a first aid kit for your horse, here are a few of the basics to get you started in the image below.
A few extra items I have on order are things such as Syringes, plastic gloves, Animalintex(Hoof Poultice) & a tub of Epsom Salts, the majority of my Horse First aid, I got from the Equine Warehouse! I found this website the most beneficial with the best selection of veterinary items.
With all the advice & tips mentioned above, I hope you guys are well sorted or at least have some basic guidelines if anything is to happen to your horse. Just remember, if you are in any doubt contact your vet ASAP, as you can tell from the pictures, our horses are quite accident prone so our vet was on speed dial for the guts of two months. It’s all part & parcel with owning young mischievous horses!
Thanks for reading, & please remember, if you watch Grey’s Anatomy religiously it still does not mean you are qualified to perform surgery on anyone let alone an animal for that matter! Ask for help when help is needed!
3 thoughts on “First Aid At The Yard – The Horse”
Great tips! Thanks for sharing!
LikeLiked by 1 person
This is a must know for horse rescuers. You did a good job in posting this, now a lot of people will know what to do in case that their horse had cuts, etc.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you! With dealing with some of these injuries for the first time myself, I thought it definitely be useful for anyone else going through it first time around! Thank you for reading 🙂