20 Must-Haves for Your Equine First Aid Kit

Equine First Aid Kit

Equine First Aid Kit

20 Must-Haves For Your Equine First Aid Kit

Polo is a rough and tumble sport and injuries are bound to happen. A first aid kit is a necessity on any farm and is often something you should have handy before you need it. Build a kit for both the barn, and the trailer, so you’ll always have what you need, when you need it. The list I’ve compiled below I made with caring for the horses in mind, but many of these can be used for humans as well.

1. Bandages

Elastikon, vet wrap, standing wraps, shipping wraps, even a polo wrap can be used in a pinch. You’ll want to have something flexible available in case you need to wrap an open wound or poultice.

2. Scissors

Scissors are vitally important for cutting duct-tape, elastikon, or electrical tape. Should you find yourself needing to put a wrap on your horse in a hurry, having scissors to be able to cut the elastikon or duct-tape will make things easier.

3. Buckets

Everything from dousing a hot horse with water or letting them drink a bit of water, to soaking hooves or even using as a first aid kit container, buckets are essential.

4. Flashlight

Horses always seem to injure themselves at the worst time, and night is no exception. Keep a flashlight with charged batteries available for inspecting wounds in the dark.

5. Tweezers

Tweezers can be used to pick off ticks, remove shards of wood, or just get into tight places your fingers can’t fit.

6. Ice Packs

Help to cool down a hot horse or apply immediate cold to swollen limbs.

7. Lubricant

Keep a jar of vaseline in your first aid kit for assisting thermometers getting to where they need to go or use it for sunscreen on horses with white noses or on burns/fresh skin to protect and encourage hair to grow back.

8. Rubbing Alcohol

For disinfecting scissors, tweezers, or thermometers. Do not use to disinfect wounds as it can dry out the skin you want to heal.

9. Sheet or Roll Cotton

On scrapes and cuts on the leg, you’ll disinfect it, cover it with non-stick gauze, and then wrap what you can with a roll of sheet cotton. This provides some cushioning, protects the area from getting dirty, and holds the gauze in place.

10. Betadyne

Betadyne is a beautifully gentle disinfectant. Always disinfect more than you think you need to.

11. Sterile Gauze

Sterile, non-stick gauze will hold any antibiotic ointment, or simply to cover an open wound and protect it from getting dirty. I prefer using the non-stick version so I don’t tear off new skin when I replace the bandage.

12. Surgical Gloves

Always a good idea to wear surgical gloves when dealing with blood or treating a wound to prevent infection.

13. Thermometer

A rectal thermometer is essential for taking a horse’s temperature.

14. Wire cutters

Wire cutters can be handy if your horse gets caught up in wire fencing, or even hooks and bucket handles.

15. Bottled Sterile water

Bottled sterile water is good to have on hand for flushing debris out of eyes, or open wounds.

16. Bute

A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, Phenylbutazone can be used like aspirin. It can bought in an oral paste, or an injectionable solution. Use it to provide pain relief, and reduce fevers.

17. Twitch

Usually a twitch is a long wooden pole with a loop of rope at the end. This loop is slipped over the horse’s nose as the pole is twisted until the rope tightens down around the soft upper lip. While this may seem cruel, it is certainly effective for situations in which you need to immobilize the horse for it’s own and your safety.

18. Poultice

A poultice is a thick solution that is applied to swelling in an attempt to draw out the inflammation.

19. Ace

Acepromazine is a strong tranquilizer and should only be used at the discretion or at the direction of a vet.

20. Flunixin

Another non-steriodal anti-inflammatory, flunixin is more agressive at targeting inflamed tissue and is usually used in the treatment of colic pain, join disease and to alleviate fevers. A side effect of administering flunixin is usually diarrhea, which also helps in some cases of colic.

Did I miss anything? What do you have in your first aid kit? A bottle of tequila?


Abscesses – A Pain in the…Foot…

Treating an Abscess

Treating an Abscess


A couple days ago one of my horses came up suddenly lame. I hadn’t worked her especially hard recently so I wasn’t concerned about bowed tendons and upon inspection only found minimal heat around her fetlock and the top of her coronary band. I picked her hoof to see if I could find anything obvious, but again came up with nothing. It wasn’t until I took the hoof testers to her that I found a localized pain in her hoof. This is a very typical presentation of an abscess so I wanted to take this opportunity write up a description of what an abscess actually is and how to treat it.

What is an abscess??

-In any part of the body, an abscess is a localized infection. Whatever the cause of the abscess, it usually results in death of tissue within the hoof. Because blood flow is restricted in the hoof, the body has no way to remove this dead tissue, causing an infection. In a hoof, which is a relatively non-porous material, it builds pressure, causing pain, until it can find an escape.

What causes abscesses??

-Any damage to the hoof can cause an abscess. A puncture by a nail or sharp stone, a shoe nail that quicks the horse, or even a simple bruise can cause enough damage to create an abscess. This happens a lot when a horse goes from being shod to barefoot so, in the fall, when we turn out horses out make sure to keep an eye on them for a least the last couple weeks to make sure they handle the transition well.

If you suspect your horse stepped on a nail, call your vet immediately. Radiographs will have to be taken to make sure the nail did not reach the coffin bone, or the bursa around it.

How do I treat an abscess??

1. To release the pressure and make your horse more comfortable, a farrier or vet may dig out a hole in the bottom of the hoof, allowing the infection to drain. If this does not happen it will find the path of least resistance and you risk the abscess making its way upwards and bursting out of the coronary band. This is a much nastier wound and much harder to keep clean and heal correctly. If a hole cannot be made, they may recommend a series of soaking the hoof in a mixture of hot water and Epsom salts to soften the bottom of the hoof. If your horse does not stand too well with his hoof in a bucket or feet bin, a hoof boot may make this easier on both of you.

2. After a hole has been opened, your vet may recommend soaking the hoof in a mixture of Epsom salts and water. Others have recommended even a mixture of water and chamomile tea, or water and apple cider vinegar.

Ichthammol on an Abscess

Ichthammol on an Abscess





3. It should be cleaned thoroughly with a mild disinfectant like betadine. Then a drawing agent such as ichthammol or an Epsom salt paste can be applied, covered by sterile gauze pads. Wrap the foot with vet wrap, covered by elasticon or duct tape. Be careful not to cover the coronary band as this can restrict blood flow and cause more damage.

Allow your horse turn out. The sole and frog of the hoof act as a cushion and the regular pressure of walking will help circulate fluid in the hoof.

If the infection is large enough, your vet may recommend daily injections of antibiotics. This will simply help the horse’s body fight the infection.

If the abscessed was caused by a shoe nail, removal of the shoe may be enough to release the pressure.

While painful to the horse, abscesses are usually the best diagnosis your vet can give you. Depending on the severity, your horse may only be off for a couple of days to a week. If you have any great abscess stories or remedies or any questions, please feel free to comment below!