Do you have a Horse First Aid Kit? Most owners have some sort of bandaging materials, and maybe a few products to clean a wound with, and some owners will have type of first aid product available. Type ‘Horse First Aid Kit’ into any search engine and you can buy some fairly comprehensive kits, but are these the right items, and what do you actually need to have?
I know from the Horse First Aid Courses that I run across the UK that this is a confusing area for owners, so with that in mind I’m going to run through ten must have items that you need.
1. Salt or Saline Solution
As a horse owner you will be cleaning wounds, and you need to be able to clean a wound without causing any further damage to the tissue. Many owners will have ‘hibiscrub’ as part of a horse first aid kit, but this is actually much too strong, is generally used incorrectly and can in fact slow down wound healing. Don’t forget that hibiscrub is used by surgeons (both in human and equine hospitals) to prepare themselves and their patients, and it is not the best product to clean everyday wounds with. Hibiscrub is best left for very dirty wounds, or to be used on advice of your vet.
Saline solution is a much more appropriate product to clean wounds with, and you can use a prepared solution or make up your own using a teaspoon of salt in a pint of cooled boiled water. Saline solution will ensure that you can clean the wound, without causing any further damage or irritation.
2. Gauze swabs
Gauze swabs are ideal for cleaning a cut, and much better than cotton wool as no residue is left in the wound. You don’t need specific equine gauze swabs, human gauze swabs can be easily purchased online, they are not expensive either. A zip lock bag is a handy addition to store the spare ones in, and it will help keep them clean as well.
Disposable gloves are certainly worth including in your kit, they will protect you when cleaning up a dirty wound, and also prevent your horse picking anything up from you. The yard isn’t the cleanest place, and if you’ve just mucked out a stable your hands aren’t really clean.
The ideal product for a wound is hydrogel, this will keep the wound moist and clean, and you can’t do too much harm with it. I like Intrasite Gel and Vetalintex, and these are the hydrogels that we include in our Horse First Aid Kits.
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. As an owner you are only treating basic superficial wounds, and if in any doubt you should be seeking the advice of your vet. You can’t make a wound heal faster, you are simply trying to create the best healing environment for the wound.
5. Non stick dressing
Once the wound has been cleaned and a topical product applied, most wounds benefit from being covered with a non stick dressing. You must use something that won’t stick to the wound otherwise you will be simply removing all the new cells each time you change the dressing. Melolin is my top choice as it is inexpensive, widely available and comes in an array of sizes. You don’t need an equine specific dressing, melolin is a dressing used for human wounds and you can purchase this at a local chemist or online.
6. Soffban or Cotton Wool
After a non-stick dressing is applied over the wound a secondary layer, which is basically padding, is required as part of a simple bandage. Owners are often surprised that you need a secondary layer for a basic bandage, but this is essential to provide smooth even pressure, with no lumps or pressure points.
For the secondary layer I find Soffban is a great product to use. Soffban is very soft, fine cotton wool rolled up like an exercise bandage, and it’s easy to apply. If you pull it too hard it breaks, which prevents the bandage becoming too tight.
Cotton wool or gamgee can be used in place of Soffban, and cutting a roll in half (or purchasing half sized rolls) makes it much easier to apply.
7. Cohesive bandage
A top layer is required to complete a basic bandage, and a cohesive bandage, such as Vetrap is ideal. It is a stretchy, cohesive supportive dressing designed to keep wound dressings in place, but do take care to ensure that the tension isn’t too tight.
8. Poultice Kit
Dealing with a hoof abscess is a challenge that most owners will face at some point, 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.
For a poultice kit you will need animalintex, a shallow tub or bucket, Vetrap, and duct tape, a nappy can also be helpful. You may wish to soak 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 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, Vetrap 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.
A thermometer is certainly an essential item to include in your Horse First Aid Kit, and a basic human thermometer for a local chemist or supermarket is more than sufficient. Taking your horse’s’ temperature is an important vital sign to measure, it 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. One of the key takeaway messages for owners attending our Horse First Aid Courses is to purchase a thermometer, and to record their horse’s temperature.
A torch, or even better a head torch, is the final must have item, 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?!
If you don’t have a Horse First Aid Kit currently I hope this article gives you some inspiration, and don’t forget that you can get your free Horse First Aid Kit Checklist here. This includes more details on what you need to include and why.