Build a Horse First Aid Kit
It's Not Difficult - Fun Even

Putting together an equine first aid kit need not be a daunting task.
It pays to do a bit of research as you'll come across a few unique and useful ideas, a couple of which we've incorporated into our list.

Horse first aid kits, like any others, are designed for "just in case" and as such it's tempting to include everything one can possibly think of.

We'll follow the 80-20 rule making a couple of assumptions to keep things manageable:

  • if we're talking about many horses, chances are that at any given time only one will require first aid, not the whole herd.

  • as opposed to falling off a cliff, which of course can happen, the usual injury is a cut or abrasion, recognizing of course that these can be quite severe.

Let's build a horse first aid kit which can handle the most likely incidents designed to accomplish the following:
  • Stop bleeding for the more severe wounds
  • Cleanse the wound
  • Protect the cleansed wound
  • Remove objects (such as wire or splinters)
  • Gather data to convey to the veterinarian (heart rate, gut sounds, temperature)

Start With an Appropriate Container:

What's "appropriate" is your call. Just be sure to mark it as a first aid kit. A container on a shelf with a dozen other similar containers, all unmarked, is something best avoided.

Include the phone number of the veteranarian (and a back up vet or emergency number).

  • A toolbox can be an excellent choice. Look for one with a lift out tray which can be used to hold scissors, thermometers, anything you don't want to have to dig around for to find.

    Also the handle makes for ease in carrying the kit from one location to another. You can get a nice red or yellow one which will be easy to locate, even if on a shelf with a number of other containers.

  • A 5-gallon bucket is the choice of some. You may wish to include several smaller plastic containers to hold specific items so that all the items don't get mixed together.

    Consider when such a container is used for tools or gardening equipment - the most needed item always manages to sink to the bottom

  • Others like tin buckets (biscuit tins) which have the advantage of a tight fitting lid. A disadvantage is that at times the lids can become too tight fitting or, under certain conditions, rust.

    Ever tried opening one on a cold day with bare fingers when the lid is on too tight?

  • A plastic air-tight storage container is another good approach. My recommendation would be use of containers with transparent sides, especially if you plan to use 2 or 3 smaller boxes instead of a single large one.

  • A special consideration is a container for a kit to be taken out on the trail. This would generally be a soft-sided "container" suitable for carrying in a saddle-bag or a small tool box for a pack trip when a pannier is available. A fanny pack will work as well.

Add the Contents -

To stop bleeding for severe wounds -

  • Include several disposable diapers or wrapped sanitary napkins. These are absorbent and the napkins are sterile.
To stop bleeding quickly add a bottle of Cayenne Pepper to the kit.
Cayenne is a styptic, antiseptic and counter-irritant, and when packed into a cut or wound will stop or quickly slow bleeding in a very short time.
In researching this I discovered that cayenne pepper has many medicinal as well as nutritional uses and can indeed be used in treating wounds which are bleeding heavily.

To cleanse a wound -

  • Betadine , an antibacterial soap, is recommended by many veterinarians to clean the wound area. The solution is not left on the wound but should be flushed away before bandaging..
  • Hydrogen peroxide is best for flushing deep wounds or punctures
  • Sterile Gause Sponge or Pads are recommended for cleaning a wound (with Betadine) as well as covering a wound. Have several sizes to accomodate minor wounds.
To protect the cleansed wound -
  • An >B>Antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin or Nolvasan. Ointments are normally applied only after a veterinarian has examined the wound.
  • Antibiotic Aerosol sprays are another option and Fly Repellent is handy to have in the kit.
  • Bandages, gauze, padding, wraps and tape. To protect a wound and stop or minimize bleeding. There are all sorts of possibilities here, the limitation being how much room you have in your container ( as well as what the comfort level is in being adequately prepared).
    Include a few safety pins which can come in hand in working with bandages.
  • Self-Adhesive Tape to hold the guaze to the wound. The tape should be 3 - 4 inches wide and stretchy - VetrapTM is excellent for this as it sticks to itself and not to the horse - Elastikon, Flexus are also recommended

  • Bandage Scissors (should be kept sharp and should have blunt or rounded ends).

    To remove objects such as wire or splinters -

    • Knife - for cutting clothes, straps or ropes and wire cutter (a hoof nipper works fine here) in the event the horse has an encounter with wire.

    • Tweezers to remove splinters, thistles, etc. which have become be lodged in your horse’s skin.

    • And a hoof pick especially useful in a trail ride kit.

    To gather data to convey to the veterinarian

    (e.g., heart rate, gut sounds, temperature) -
    • Veterinary or human rectal thermometer. to know whether or not he has a fever before you call your veterinarian. Digital thermometers are very accurate and a good choice being easiest to read.

    • Stethoscope. Together with temperature, heart rate is useful information to have before calling the vet.
    Either of the above could make a nice gift idea rather than assembling an entire kit.

    Miscellaneous -

    • Small roll of duct tape
    • A Flashlight

    For Minor Wounds or for Prevention

    A small tube (4 oz) of Desitin Ointment ( zinc oxide) a product widely used to prevent and treat diaper rash. Even properly fitting tack can cause occasional problems - chafing, girth gall and the like. Too much discomfort and your nice ride may no longer be so nice. You can also use it yourself to treat a saddle sore.

    Note that it's toxic (don't use it as sandwich spread by mistake) and can cause allergic reaction to some. But as it's commonly used on babies it should be quite safe to carry.

    Finally, for the trail ride equine first aid kit, many experienced trail riders recommend incorporating items for humans as well as horses rather than bringing along two kits. So add some band aids, and other items normally found in the "human kit". Plan for sunburn, stings and bites, upset stomach and the like. A good idea we think. A few survival items like matches will make the kit even more useful.

    And now you have a gift which you hope will never have to be put to use.

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