We published a must-have first aid kit for horse owners in 2017 and it still stands the test of time. But what about first aid skills for horse owners? Do you know what to do in an emergency? Or how to detect an issue or illness before it becomes one? Here are some tips to become the most prepared horse owner you can be.
1. The phone number of the closest veterinarian. He or she can quickly assess the injury or illness first and foremost, and secondly, they can speak to you and decide how well-equipped you are to handle what’s needed in that moment. In other words, if you’re experienced you can look for the signs of an advancing situation, or recognize if the vet should drop everything and come immediately.
2. Know how to take TPR (Temperature, Pulse, Respiration). Normal rates for temperature are a range of 99 to 101.5; pulse (30-40 bpm is normal at rest); and respiration (8-12 breathes per minute). See videos below for how to take each accurately and do so regularly so you know what is normal for your horse.
3. Know YOUR horse. In addition to the above you should also know to monitor if your horse is eating, drinking, urinating and passing manure at a normal rate for him or her, or if he/she is off one or more of these vital bodily functions. Every horse is different and recognizing subtle changes could save your horse’s life.
4. Body conditioning and behaviour. While not necessarily helpful in some emergencies, say a leg injury or abrasion, it is very useful in determining other less obvious illnesses such as ulcers. Is there a change in weight? In the coat condition? Is your normally social gelding suddenly standing away from the herd with his head down?
5. Assess wounds carefully. The location and depth of a wound can be deceiving. What might first appear as a simple scrape could actually involve a tendon or other vital area. Again, use your vet to guide you through the assessment. Thankfully, smartphones allow us to send images immediately for fast assistance.
6. Know how to stop bleeding by applying pressure on the wound. Once the bleeding is stopped, the area needs to be cleaned and bandaged/wrapped. Your vet should be consulted if you have any questions about severity or treatment.
7. Learn how to recognize lameness. During grooming, always examine legs and hooves for heat or any unusual bumps or swelling. And notice how your horse walks out of the stall or paddock, checking for any abnormal stiffness. Of course, if your horse is head-bobbing lame it is time for that vet call; it might be an abscess or something more sinister.
Here are some helpful videos: