Horse travel is no longer the big deal it once was, but ensuring the safety of your horses will always be of monumental importance.
Neva Kittrell Scheve, co-author of Equine Emergencies on the Road, said, “Most horse problems fall into two basic categories: traumatic and digestive, with dehydration/heat exhaustion, colic symptoms and major cuts with blood loss ranking highest among them.”
She goes on to say that if the injury appears to be life-threatening and you don’t have phone numbers of veterinarians in the area, call 911 and ask to be connected to a local equine practitioner. If at all possible, she said to refrain from unloading until the doctor arrives, especially if the horse is frightened or becomes aggressive.
In order to know whether a situation is life-threatening, Scheve said first you need to take down your horse's baseline measurements ahead of time, regardless of where you’re going and for how long. Scheve then says to keep the info in your vehicle for reference.
Here are the normal ranges for an adult horse:
- Pulse: 30 - 42 beats per minute
- Respiratory rate: 12 – 20 breaths per minute
- Rectal temperature: 99.5F – 101.5F (a veterinarian should be contacted for a reading over 102.5F)
- Capillary refill time: 2 seconds (the time it takes for the gum tissue to return to normal after having been depressed)
Other signs to check are:
- Look at skin pliability for evidence of dehydration: failure of skin to return to normal after having been pinched--typically tested on the neck.
- Check the color of the mucous membranes of the gums, nostrils, inner eye tissue, and inner lips of the vulva should be pink. Any other color from bright red, pale pink, white, bluish or purple indicates a serious problem.
- The color, consistency and volume of manure should be normal.
- Look for signs of distress, anxiety or discomfort, including absence of gut sounds.
- Note any lethargy, depression, or episodes of not eating or drinking.
- Look for evidence of lameness: head bobbing, difficulty moving, odd stance, pain, unwillingness to rise
“The following items assembled into an emergency kit will help you handle most situations,” Scheve said. “These items are not only for use on the trailer, but are also good to have around the barn. Discuss this list with your veterinarian; he or she may have other suggestions that are appropriate for you and your situation.”
ROLL COTTON 2- 4 rolls.
ROLL GAUZE 4 to 6 rolls – 4” or 6”
GAUZE SQUARES 1 sleeve
CLEAN STANDING BANDAGES 4 – quilt or fleece without outer wraps
24” SECTION of 6” PVC PIPE which has been split in half lengthwise for splinting; check that diameter of pipe fits your horse
COHESIVE FLEXIBLE BANDAGES 2 rolls - Vetrap, Co-Flex
STICKY ROLL BANDAGE - Elastikon
ANTISPETIC SOAP - Betadine
ANTIBACTERIAL OINTMENT – Nitrofurazone Dressing or Triple Antibiotic
ANTIBACTERIAL SPRAY POWDER - Furox Spray or AluSpray
OPHTHALMIC OINTMENT and SALINE EYE WASH
BANAMINE GRANULES OR PASTE
WATER – 10 gallons or more
Being alert and prepared can help you avoid complications with your horse while trailering. If your horse does become sick or injured, seek medical attention as soon as possible to avoid the situation getting worse.