First Aid: Abrasions

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When you are bringing your horse in from the field you notice that the hair is matted down on your horse’s leg, and with closer inspection, there appears to be some blood and raw-looking skin. It is best to carefully check the wound to see if it’s just an abrasion, or something deeper. Providing your horse will safely allow it, use your fingers to gently probe the area. Does it feel flat and somewhat flush with surrounding skin? Or, do you feel a flap or uneven area that might indicate a deeper wound?

An abrasion implies that the top surface of the skin has been “abraded” away, taking with it some hair and a portion of the outermost epidermis. This kind of wound, one that has not penetrated deeper beneath the external skin surface, is usually fairly innocuous over most parts of the horse’s body. It is important to determine with certainty that you are dealing only with a superficial abrasion and not a deeper wound, particularly over or around a joint or tendon area.

Good first aid relies on cleanliness: First you should trim or clip away the overlying and surrounding hair so you can more closely inspect the wound. Scrub it with antiseptic soap (chlorhexidine or tamed iodine) and rinse well. If it appears to only be a gouge in the most superficial skin layers, then once the wound is clean, you can apply a topical, water-soluble wound ointment such as triple antibiotic ointment, silver sulfadiazine cream or chlorhexidine cream.

Apply fly spray around the wound, but not directly over it, to keep insects from irritating the tender tissue. Or, you can cover it from contamination and insects by using aluminum spray as a topical “band-aid.”

Unless the abrasion is in an area that a horse might keep hitting with his leg, there is no need to bandage a superficial abrasion. Keep an eye on the area until it is complete healed, and call your veterinarian if swelling, heat or pus appear at the wound site.