Equine First Aid Kit

Equine first aid kit

Ensure you have an emergency kit convenient at all times whether you haul your horse or not. You will want to make sure it is well stocked and easily accessible along with centrally located.


Keep a first aid kit in multiple locations including the barn, trailer and put together a portable one for the trail.


A well-stocked first aid kit should include items to:


  1. stabilize and treat wounds
  2. including a tourniquet
  3. hemostat
  4. bandage
  5. scissors
  6. antimicrobial solution
  7. gauze pads and rolls
  8. elastic adhesive
  9. wrap and roll
  10. all purpose healing salve
  11. wound spray
  12. an easy boot for injuries to the foot
  13. a roll of duct tape to secure waterproof bandages
  14. water proof bandages
  15. extra tetanus toxoid on hand in the refrigerator (for the barn)


Trail Riding First Aid

Learn first aid for hoof emergencies in one of the most inconvenient environments you and your horse will encounter – out on the trail.

Accidents happen. And hoof injuries tend to elicit the most anxiety and worry from horse owners, because they remind us of that all-too-common adage – no hoof, no horse. They can occur at any time, but can be of particular concern when you’re out on the trail, far from the barn’s first aid kit, the cold hose and your veterinarian’s number.

Cuts, abrasions and puncture wounds are the most commonly seen injuries out on the trail or during the regular roadside hack. The best advice is to pack a basic emergency kit whenever you are out on the trail, although I’m sure we’ve all gone off for a “quiet hack down the road” with no thought of packing a first aid kit. If nothing else, at least pack a hoof pick for any ride – fold-up picks fit nicely into a pocket, or can be safely tied to a saddle.

Cuts and Abrasions

The equine foot is a highly vascular structure, and cuts or abrasions to the coronet band or heel bulbs will often produce a lot of blood and can appear quite alarming. However, bleeding helps to naturally cleanse a wound, so take a deep breath and let the blood flow for a little while before attempting to stop it. If you are near a clean water source, standing the horse in running water can be beneficial as it cleans without abrading healthy skin, slows the blood flow, helps ward off swelling and lessens sensation and pain. Be aware that some water sources can harbor bacteria that are best kept out of an open wound – common sense must prevail.

If you do carry a small first aid kit, it is a good idea to pack a small spray bottle containing a tea tree oil mixture. This will address immediate concerns about infection. If the cut appears deep, is fairly large, or if there are loose flaps of skin, the hoof should be wrapped for the walk home. A quick interim “hoof boot” can be made with gauze, vet wrap, and of course, duct tape!

Puncture Wounds

These are something you definitely want to try and avoid. Foreign bodies such as nails, fencing staples, broken glass, sharp flints or broken wire, can all pose a hazard. Punctures that penetrate the hoof’s horny sole or frog and enter the sensitive tissues below can vary from trivial to fatal, depending on the depth and follow-up treatment. If nothing else, be sure to have your horse’s tetanus shots up to date!

So, what if you are out riding and pick up a nail or foreign object from the trail? Clean and examine the foot as thoroughly as possible. If you were at home, it might be best to leave the puncture object alone until your vet arrives. Generally, this is not a feasible option when out on a trail, some distance from the barn. It may be necessary to remove the item in order to make the trek home without causing further damage. If you do remove it, keep it to show your veterinarian later. Again, tea tree oil applied directly into the puncture can help keep the wound clean, and a gauze/duct tape wrap will get you home.

Little else can be done on the trail, but a call to your vet is recommended as soon as you return to the barn. Deep penetration wounds are susceptible to infection, in which pus and gas will build up in the hoof. If the pressure builds up within the hoof and no drainage is provided, the pus may eventually run under the sole and up the white line before bursting out at the coronary band. Depending on the nature and placement of the object invading the foot, your veterinarian may suggest x-rays to see if there is any damage to the internal structures and hoof bones.

Hoof Protection For All

Barefoot horses that enjoy the benefit of natural hoof care, including proper trimming, a healthy environment and good nutrition, will grow a strong hoof with over ½” of hard callused sole, a solid rubbery frog and often a ¼” thick strong hoof wall. Certain wounds can still occur, but are less likely. A naturally barefoot hoof has excellent sensory receptors in the frog and sole, so the horse can often avoid serious injury by immediately detecting dangerous footing.

Shod horses, or those subject to improper trimming methods and compromised hoof mechanism and form, are generally more susceptible to injuries on the trail and elsewhere. Riders of such horses are strongly advised to carry an emergency hoof boot in the event of a lost shoe. That said, an extra hoof boot should be included in anyone’s first aid kit!

A small utility tool, such as a leatherman, may also be useful if your horse has shoes. Shoes that are only half off are more of a concern than a shoe that is lost entirely. A leatherman can often be used to pull any remaining nails, or to nail a loose shoe back on. Once again, duct tape is your friend. Wrap the hoof wall and shoe in a figure eight pattern, but avoid taping above the coronet band unless you’ve put a layer of vet wrap down first – the hair will get stuck to the duct tape and can cause problems during removal.

While accidents can and do happen, a little precaution can help you avoid many trail injuries and prepare you to effectively deal with those that do occur.

Johanna Neuteboom is a professional barefoot trimmer and natural horse care advocate, living and working in the Muskoka region of Ontario. For more information on her services, visit barnboots.ca.


Do you know how to Bandage your Horse?

There are right and wrong ways to bandage horses’ limbs, no matter the wrap’s purpose

By Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM


At some point nearly every horse, from the fine-boned, flashy Arabian halter horse to the cowboy’s sturdy, no-frills roping mount, will sport a wrap or bandage on one or more legs. Just because we see bandages around the barn frequently doesn’t mean bandaging and wrapping are easy, and that bandages and wraps are interchangeable and always appropriate. Before you reach for the nearest roll of Vetrap or grab that splint boot out of your tack trunk, look at some of the basic principles behind bandaging or wrapping equine limbs.

Owners commonly apply bandages to shield recent wounds or tendon or -ligament injuries, to protect during shipping or performance, and to prevent fluid accumulation in the limb (“stocking up”) during stall rest. Reid Hanson, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, ACVECC, professor of equine surgery and lameness at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, in Alabama, adds topical dressing application, immobilization, and support to this list. However, bandaging and wrapping, while useful, are not wholly benign. Improper application and/or use of an inappropriate bandaging material can do more harm than leaving the leg unwrapped.

Architecture of a Bandage

Bandage design varies according to purpose, but most bandages include the same two to three layers:

·         Topical dressing, which might be a liniment, medicated pad, ointment, or powder. These are generally used in horses with injuries or skin conditions.

·         Thick cotton padding such as practical (roll) cotton, layers of sheet cotton, cast padding, or fabric quilt or pillow wraps.

·         Compressive/securing layer such as stable/track bandage, Vetrap, gauze, polo wrap, elastic tape, or stockinette.

Of course, veterinarians might modify or augment this basic structure to suit particular circumstances. They might recommend adding splints or bandage casts to provide immobilization in the case of a wound in a high motion area or with a severe tendon injury. As for protection, owners might use Velcro-style shipping boots, single-layer devices that provide skin protection but little compression. In contrast, some wraps and boots intended for performance might provide focal protection suited to a particular sport.

And some might not look like a traditional or prefabricated bandage at all. For some wounds, such as those in areas that are difficult or detrimental to immobilize or where topical medication application is the main requirement, Hanson describes a minimalist wound covering technique known as the “Jolly method.” This technique uses Velcro tabs to secure a wound dressing and a stockinette tube as covering.


Bandage and Wrap Uses

Wounds Owners and veterinarians commonly bandage limbs to protect wounds and surgical sites. A bandage can prevent contamination, provide compression to minimize swelling, hold topical medications against the wound, reduce motion of the wound edges, and keep the exudates (pus) in contact with the wound.

Although exudate triggers an “ick” response in many people, that yellowish slime serves a critical purpose in the healing process. “The exudate has all of the cytokines (cell-signaling proteins) that -produce healing,” says Hanson. Many horse owners “see exudate and assume (the wound) must be infected, and so they get their iodine scrub and clean it,” but Hanson cautions against this. By scrubbing a healing wound, “they’ve removed all the good juice that allows it to heal.”

Hanson prefers using an acemannan (an aloe vera derivative) wound cleanser that is gentle to the tissues. “You should not clean a wound with anything you are not willing to put in your eye’s conjunctival sac,” he notes as a rule of thumb.

Excessive swelling or motion of the wound edges can delay wound margin contracture, a major step in the healing process. A bandage that applies compression can help prevent fluid from accumulating in the limb in response to injury and reduce this swelling.

To reduce movement, however, the veterinarian might need to amend the basic bandage design. A standard soft wrap-type bandage often does not provide sufficient immobilization regardless of how thickly or firmly it is applied. Where immobilization is required, Hanson recommends using a splint or bandage cast.

For most limb wounds, Hanson suggests applying both a primary and secondary bandage. Once a veterinarian cleans and debrides the wound appropriately, Hanson recommends applying a medicated dressing (such as an acemannan hydrogel or calcium alginate dressing) as the primary bandage to promote autolytic debridement (use of the body’s own enzymes and moisture to liquefy and remove dead tissue). In most cases he will cover this dressing with a thick layer of padding and secure it with a wrap material. If the area requires immobilization he will then apply a secondary bandage, such as a splint or a semisoft bandage cast. Hanson prefers bandage casts over traditional hard casts because he believes they produce fewer complications, such as cast sores, and generally the horse can be sent home rather than having to remain in a hospital for monitoring.

Tendon or ligament injuries Wrapping legs with suspected or diagnosed tendon or ligament injuries has its pros and cons. A wrap can control swelling and provide some support to a leg with what Hanson refers to as a classic mid-tendon bow. “However, if the injury was the result of a bandage bow (caused by a too-tight or inproperly applied wrap), I probably would not use a wrap,” he says.

While these wraps generally do not require a dressing, pay attention to the bandage basics of using padding and applying even tension. Hanson does not believe placing a support wrap on an uninjured leg is necessary.

Julie Dechant, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, ACVECC, associate professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, comments that wraps alone do not give “enough support to provide true protection for tendon injuries. We certainly use (them), but in any severely damaged tendon a bandage alone is not enough support.” In these cases, says Dechant, a splint will most likely be required.

Shipping Owners can apply wraps and/or shipping boots to trailered horses’ legs both to protect the leg from trauma and provide support. Hanson notes that he sees horses arrive at the Auburn teaching hospital in one of two types of shipping wrap: the quilt and wrap type or a more modern shipping boot with Velcro closures. Overall, Hanson prefers the quilt and wrap style, feeling that it provides “support, compression, and protection.”

However, he notes that prefabricated shipping boots can provide more complete protection of the leg, covering the coronary band. “It seems that if someone was really concerned about protection, a combination of the styles might be best,” he says. “Bell boots that cover the coronary band are a nice addition to the (quilt and wrap) bandage if one is concerned with protecting that area from injury.”

Dechant believes that shipping boots are useful during travel, but owners need to be sure the boots fit well so they don’t trip up the horse. She agrees with Hanson that “if you’re only covering the cannon, (the boot or wrap) is not as useful in the trailer where the horse is more likely to step on itself.”

Dechant recommends getting the horse accustomed to having wraps or boots on his legs prior to shipping to avoid trauma from panicking in the confines of the trailer.

Confinement Owners can use standing wraps to minimize limb swelling in a stall-confined horse. Dechant says that “whenever standing wraps are placed, they need to be monitored daily and ideally reset at least once per day.” This way owners and managers can ensure the wrap is not tightening or loosening inappropriately and that no debris has worked its way inside the wrap, where it might cause a sore.

Performance Wraps, bandages, and boots are used in a wide variety of equine performance disciplines for protection and, in some cases, support. Dechant emphasizes the importance of clean, well-fitting, and situationally appropriate equipment. “It’s important to apply and use it in the intended manner,” she says. “Some wraps intended for performance are not meant for horses standing in the stall, where they may not have the same degree of blood flow.” Also, cautions Dechant, many performance wraps have less padding, so owners need to be aware of precise application with appropriate pressure.

Bandaging Demystified

Equine wraps and bandages are sort of like sushi: The menu of supplies is extensive, and everyone has an opinion about the “right way” to combine them. While it is true that inappropriate bandage application can cause as many problems as a well-applied bandage can prevent, following these common sense steps can result in successful bandaging:

1. Keep everyone safe. Preventing human injuries is just as important as treating or preventing equine ones. The person applying the bandage should avoid kneeling or sitting on the ground, says Dechant, and should instead crouch, ready to move out of the way if necessary. She also recommends having a competent handler hold the horse during the process. Bear in mind, too, that some horses initially resent wraps on the hind legs, especially over the hocks, so it’s best to apply these in an open area in case the horse kicks out.

2. Don’t skimp on the padding. “Insufficient padding is going to cause a bandage bow,” says Hanson. Padding should be clean, dry, and in reasonable shape, Dechant adds. Since the idea of the padding is to protect the leg, it’s important to avoid incorporating frayed bits of padding or fill that contains wrinkles or bunches–these can cause pressure points under a bandage.

3. Keep it even under pressure. Remember that “anything directly against the skin should not be applied with any tension at all,” Dechant says. But uneven tension in a bandage’s securing layers also can potentially cause tendon damage. “You want an even distribution of compression along the leg” with this layer, too, says Hanson.

“The key is to apply it firmly but not too tightly,” Dechant adds. If using Vetrap or a similar flexible bandage to secure the padding, she suggests applying enough tension to remove 80% of the wrap’s innate “wrinkles.” She also stresses the importance of overlapping layers of bandage by 50% to avoid having edges of the wrap material dig into the leg.

Using a neatly and tightly rolled bandage will ease application and reduce the need to pull against the horse’s leg and sensitive tendons to tighten the wrap. This will also help ensure the bandage is as smooth against the horse’s leg as possible to avoid uneven pressure.

4. Choose your own direction. Despite barn lore to the contrary, neither sources believe the direction a wrap is applied is critical. “Counterclockwise vs. clockwise is less important than technique,” says Dechant. “I don’t think the tendons care if they’re rolled to the outside or to the inside. However, each layer should be rolled the same (direction).” Hanson agrees with Dechant, noting that he hasn’t come across anything in literature to suggest wrapping in one direction or the other is superior. It is, however, important to be consistent in your technique and not to pull too tightly across the tendons.

5. Keep it clean. Shavings, straw, dirt, and moisture can irrate the skin and increase the risk of a wound becoming infected. Start with clean, dry materials and check the bandage frequently for damage, dirt, or moisture. To seal out debris, Dechant recommends securing the top and bottom of a disposable-type wrap with elastic tape such as Elastikon.

Take-Home Message

Bandages and wraps have numerous uses in the horse world but like many things, they can cause good or ill. Proper materials, application, and devices for the case at hand are all critical to safe and successful bandaging. Equally important is experienced instruction, as the information in this article can in no way replace a veterinarian’s experience and advice.


How to Make a Portable First-Aid Kit for Horses


Every horse owner should have an equine first-aid kit in their barn and trailer. There are a variety of equine first-aid kits commercially available, ranging from less than $50 to more than $500. While the expensive kits offer a great deal of diverse treatment options, most horse owners can get by with a more affordable homemade kit for travel.

The Bucket The first step in making your own portable first-aid kit is locating a suitable bucket. A 5 gallon bucket with a snap on lid is the best option. If you don’t have a good bucket (with a lid) you may be able to get one from any of several community locations. Many delis, bakeries, and other food producing companies buy supplies (like pickles, frosting, and filling) by the bucket. When the contents of those buckets are used the facility is left with disposal. When you ask for a bucket you may want to specify the size (5 gallons) and that it have a lid. Smaller buckets may also be available and they can be useful for other things. If you cannot find a free bucket you should be able to buy one from a local feed, supply, or tack store.

The bucket serves two purposes: 1. It is a container to hold your first-aid kit items together and keep them clean; 2. It can be emptied and used as a bucket for first-aid purposes like washing wounds. Before you begin assembling your first-aid kit, thoroughly clean and dry your bucket. There should be no residue, lingering scent, or moisture in the bucket.

Filling the Bucket Supplies for your portable first-aid kit should be carefully selected to fit inside the bucket. Liquid and gel topical medications can be transferred from larger containers into smaller leak proof applicators. Leave the larger containers at home where you have more storage room. Travel shampoo containers work well for both liquids and gels. Small size Tupperware or Rubbermaid type food containers are also handy for holding more solid compounds, and organizing supplies.

Dry Supplies You’ll Need:

  • 16″ Combine Bandage
  • 4 – 3×4″ Non-stick Telfa Pads
  • Vetwrap
  • 5 – Wooden Tongue Depressors *
  • 4 – 10 cc. Syringes **
  • 4×4″ Gauze
  • Epsom Salt
  • Thermometer
  • Stethoscope
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers/Forceps
  • Duct Tape
  • 4 – Disposable Diapers ***
  • Gloves
  • Clean, Small Towel(s)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • 2- 6″ Sections of Rubber Tubing ****
  • Small Flashlight

Wet Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Alcohol Preps OR 4×4″ Gauze in a container with ample Rubbing Alcohol
  • Betadine
  • Dawn Dish Soap OR Betadine Scrub OR Chlorhexidine Scrub
  • Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • 1 Gallon Bottled Water
  • Antiseptic Wound Spray

You should talk to your veterinarian about other prescription medications to include in your portable first-aid kit like anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and tranquilizers. Some prescription medication may require special handling and storage and might have to housed in a location other than your handy first-aid bucket. Once the bucket is filled just snap on the lid and you are ready. As you deplete supplies from the kit simply replace them from your barn supply. It is important that you not only carry these items, but also know how to use them. To learn more about providing first-aid care for your horse, talk to your veterinarian or attend a training conducted by a veterinarian.

*Tongue depressors can be used to apply topical medication without contaminating the wound or the medication.

**You probably noticed that this list includes syringes but not needles. For a basic first-aid kit, without any injectable medication, you don’t need needles. The syringes can be used to flush wounds. A 10 cc syringe is especially nice as you can draw up 2 cc of Betadine and then fill the remainder of the syringe with water for safe flushing of punctures and other open wounds.

***Diapers work great for packing hooves and they are very absorbent and can also be used to staunch the blood flow from a seeping wound.

****Rubber tubing can be inserted into the horse’s nostril and secured, to keep the horse’s airway open in the event of snakebite, excessive bee stings, or other bites that cause severe swelling of the face.