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Whatcha Gotta Have in your Equine First Aid Kit

Published: 5/18/2008
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By Maddy Butcher

It helps if the horse is haltered.
That’s what I was thinking when driving along Maine Route 24 one day.
There, dashing across the road, were two big Belgians. Partners in crime, you could say. They trotted through one yard and began helping themselves to the neighbors’ lovely green pasture, er, lawn.
palomino paints No halters.
No owner.
A sheriff’s deputy happened on the scene but he sheepishly admitted to ‘not being a horse person.’ (He might’ve been more of a horse person if there was less horse, I think.)
The neighbor grabbed a bag of carrots from her fridge.
I grabbed the dog leash from my car, took off my belt to serve as another lead line and together we got them back into their barn without too much fuss.
But the incident got me thinking about a Whatcha-Gotta-Have Kit.
Beyond the no-brainers, what other things should I have? What should every horse owner have?
I was talking with my friend and veterinarian Linda Lee Barton about these equine emergency must-haves. You can read what we came up with below.
Add your suggestions!

I have some really simple things I carry on me all the time. It’s not emergency stuff but I’m always surprised by how often I use these few items:
  • A belt
  • A knife
  • A cell phone
The belt doubles as a leash or leadline.
The knife comes in handy for cutting bailing twine, peeling fruit, cutting the t-shirt so you can apply a tourniquet after you’ve cut yourself with the knife. (The other worst case scenario I envision is getting my foot caught in the stirrup, being dragged by the panicky horse, then valiantly cutting myself free with said knife. Right.)
The cell phone is for timing your heart rate, er, your horse’s heart rate, and calling for help.
But, enough of those everyday, gotta-have items. Now for the Emergency Kit. I have mine in my car, because I visit other barns so often. But it could just as easily be stashed in the barn:
  • Emergency contact info – phone numbers for your vet, your back-up vet, neighbor, horse-knowledgeable friend, someone with a trailer if you don’t have one.
  • A Watch or someway to tell time and measure seconds and minutes (cell phone)
  • A few bundles of Vet wrap
  • Banamine paste
  • Gas X (that’s the brand name for a human OTC medicine for indigestion)
  • Assorted syringes
  • Stretch bandages
  • 4x4 gauze pads
  • Chlorhexadine scrub – for cleaning wounds. A common name brand for this is Nolvasan.
  • Instant cold pak – for you and/or your horse
  • Thermometer
  • Stethoscope
  • horse eye Vetropolycin – ointment for eye or around-eye injury
  • Saline solution (for washing out eye injury or irritant)
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Hoof pic
  • Catheter – to rinse out a puncture wound (make sure you have a syringe that fits it)
  • 1st aid tape for bandaging
  • Duct tape
  • Kotex pads/small diapers – good, relatively cheap first aid pads
  • Polo wraps – for covering bandages
  • Hoof shaped poultice pads – pricey but more convenient and less messy than poultice.
  • Latex gloves
  • Leatherman
  • Halter (preferably a rope halter with lead line attached. Rope halters readily fit more sizes of horses than other halters)
  • Treats

As I was reviewing this list I realized there is also knowledge every horse owner needs:
  • Signs and symptoms of colic and how to treat it.
  • How to clean and dress various wounds
  • How to treat other injuries (like strains)
  • How to take horse’s temperature, respirations and heart rate.
  • Signs and symptoms of heat distress and how to treat it.

Maine Equine Associates offers a First Aid Kit for $159 with the following:

Dose syringe
Instruction sheet
Weight tape
Betadine scrub
Furacin ointment
Gauze sponges, sterile and non-sterile
Leg cottons
Rolls of gauze
Elastic bandages
Antibacterial spray
DMSO gel
Epsom salts
Eye ointments
Ichthammol ointment
SMZ-TMP tablets

View Reader Comments:

add your comment
8/4/2009 Daryl DeMoor
a kit this inclusive should have latex gloves, as much to protect you from them as to protect their cuts from your germs and dirt, I try to keep a lead line and some wraps in every vehicle at all times, no-one is going to keep a list this inclusive in every vehicle, but to have these items in your trailer, or primary tow vehicle/ tack room is a good idea.
10/7/2009 Kathy
I keep a rope halter in my mudroom. If my horses get loose, I don't have to run way down to the barn and back if they are in the road. Doesn't happen often but saves time the few times it has. Have also used it on my neighbors horses who escape twice a year and come straight to my farm. I also keep a covered bucket of grain to persuade them to come my way. I guess I'll throw an extra halter and lead into my car just in case I see a loose horse in my travels. I always carry a knife which comes in handy for many things and is missed if emergency cutting of lead rope/wire fencing is needed. You could add to your list of things every horseman should know-how to give an IM injection. I have normal temperature, respirations and heart rate written down on my barn white board because these tend to fly out of your head when there's a medical emergency. Stay safe.

"A canter is the cure for every evil" - Benjamin Disraeli, The Young Duke