When you have an injured or ill horse, the last thing you want to do is run around the farm looking for the supplies you need. Putting together a first-aid kit now and storing it in an easily accessible place will make it easier to deal with emergencies when they happen.
You have the choice to build your own first aid kit or buy ready-made kits (see “Buy a Ready-Made First Aid Kit”). Purchasing a ready-made kit is an easy solution, but many barn owners prefer to assemble their own. Creating your own kit may save you money and allows you to tailor the kit to your needs.
• halter and lead rope
• bandage scissors and regular scissors
• fencing tool/bolt/wire cutter, to free the horse from a fence or remove wire or twine that’s wrapped around a leg
• Flashlight, in case the power is out or you need more light to thoroughly examine wounds
• antiseptic wound wash
• antiseptic cream/ointment
• antiseptic spray
• hydrogen peroxide (for flushing deep puncture wounds)
• Betadine solution/scrub (for cleaning surface wounds and cuts and for soaking hoof injuries)
• vet-wrap, or other self-adhesive, stretchy wrap
• stable/polo wraps
• gauze pads, good for covering injuries before wrapping or for applying wound ointment if you don’t have gloves handy
• bandaging tape
• cotton wrap
• plastic wrap
• menstrual pads (can be used in place of gauze pads on top of wounds)
• Epsom salts
• hoof pick
• hoof knife
• shoe puller
• hoof boots
• phenylbutazone (bute)
• acepromazine (Ace)
• syringe and needles
Talk to your veterinarian before administering any of the above medications since they may mask symptoms.
• vital information chart. List normal temperature, pulse, respiration and capillary refill times in case you forget while panicked.
• veterinarian contact information
• your contact information. Put your cell phone number next to the veterinarian’s contact information. That way, if someone else at your barn is dealing with the emergency, he/she will know how to reach you.
• horse owner information. If you don’t keep a list of horses and their owners in your kit, then include the location of this information so that if someone else must handle an emergency, he/she can find the information and contact the horse’s owner(s).
• petroleum jelly
• chemical cold pack
• latex or rubber gloves
• duct tape
• saline solution/eye wash. Talk to your veterinarian before washing the horse’s eye or administering eye medications. He/she may want to examine your horse first.
• towels and/or baby wipes
• clippers with #40 blade:
• fly repellent
• electrolyte paste
• heated water bucket, to warm water before washing your horse or soaking his hoof in cold climates
• clean bucket, used only for treating wounds/injuries; you may need to mix up medications, dilute medicated shampoo, or soak injured/abscessed hooves.
• 1- to 2-foot section of pipe (PVC or steel), to make a temporary splint to immobilize broken bones or severe sprains until the veterinarian arrives
Storing Your First Aid Kit
Deciding how to store your first aid kit may be almost as important as deciding what supplies you’ll include. Some people store them in a bucket or brush box, but then when they need the supplies they’re covered in dust or ravaged by rodents. Other people have a first aid cabinet attached to the wall, but that means you’ll be running back and forth to the first aid kit. Even if your first aid cabinet is located in your grooming stall, you may find yourself carrying armloads of supplies to a horse who has been injured in pasture and cannot move.
One solution for a mobile first aid kit is to use a tack trunk or toolbox with wheels. This gives you plenty of room to keep items, keeps the dust and dirt off of them, makes it harder for rodents to chew on everything, and makes it easy to get the first aid kit to an injured horse. A second-best option is a large plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid put inside a wagon. It’ll be easy to get to the horse and keep the items clean, but a determined rodent can still chew through plastic.
If you already have a first aid cabinet and don’t have a convenient space to store a large mobile first aid kit, consider making a smaller kit that you can easily carry to an injured horse. A metal toolbox works well for this. Fill it with some essential items like a thermometer, wound care and bandaging supplies. Set the toolbox on top of your first aid cabinet where it is easy to grab if you need to take supplies to the horse.
Once you assemble your first aid kit and a container to keep it in, give some serious consideration to where you’ll store it. It should be easily accessible—don’t put it in the corner of the tack room, cover it with a pile of blankets and forget where you stored it. Right inside the tack or feed room door or in the grooming stall are good places to store it. Label it clearly so it is easy to find by anyone. If you have multiple barns, consider putting a first aid kit in each barn.
After you use your first aid kit, make sure you replenish all supplies. If you run a boarding or training barn and multiple people have access to the first aid kit, make it part of your routine to check the first aid kit each month. If you are the only one with access to your first aid kit, check the kit once or twice a year, to see if any medications have expired and if you need to replenish any supplies.
Investing time and money now in building your first aid kit can save you time in the future. If you do have an emergency, you’ll know exactly where to go to get all the supplies you need so you can start helping your injured or ill horse.