Equine First Aid: Managing Your Horse’s Wounds

Read our guide on what to do if your horse suffers from a wound and when you should call the vet for help.

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Read our tips for how to manage your horse’s wounds.

What To Do First

  1. Assess the injury and be ready to relay the details to the vet.
  2. Try to prevent further injury i.e. by taking charge of the horse and moving it to somewhere safe if possible.

Commonly Asked Questions

Here are the most common issues you may encounter if your horse suffers from a wound. We explain what you should do in such cases.

The Wound Is Bleeding Heavily

apply-dressing-horse-woundApply a clean dressing to the wound, followed by several layers of padding (soffban, cotton wool, or gamgee) and then bandage as tightly as possible.

If blood seeps through then apply more layers very firmly. Do not be tempted to keep looking under the bandage to see if it has stopped. If the wound is somewhere that cannot be bandaged then try to apply as much hand pressure as possible until your vet arrives.

In an emergency you can use stable or tail bandages but remember to put padding underneath, but do not apply a tourniquet, as this can cause long term damage to the tissue.

The Horse Is Very Lame

If the horse will walk then try to move it slowly to a safe clean area, but if not then leave it where it is.

Call your vet straight away, as the horse may have a fracture, or joint/tendon sheath infection underneath the wound.

The Wound Is Very Dirty

Try to remove as much of the dirt as possible, either using gentle hose pressure or with cotton wool and salt water – avoid antiseptics as this can damage the vulnerable cells needed to heal the wound.

DO NOT put yourself at risk of injury – if in doubt then wait for the vet to arrive. If there is anything sticking into the wound, e.g. a piece of wood – do not try to remove it. It will likely be painful for the horse, and dangerous to you, and the location of such an object will help your vet evaluate the damage it has caused.

The Wound Is On/Near The Horse’s Eye

Try to get your horse into a dark stable whilst you wait for your vet to arrive.

The Wound Is Over A Joint/Tendon Sheath

Puncture wounds can be particularly disastrous as they often penetrate far deeper than they first appear.

It is absolutely essential to call the vet immediately, as prompt action is required. Clear sticky fluid oozing from a wound over a joint could be joint fluid, so make sure you call the vet!

When To Call The Vet

  1. If in any doubt, call the vet. It will not necessarily result in a visit, bit the vet can advise you best on what sort of treatment and management is necessary.
  2. The wound is large or appears to go deeper than the skin.
  3. The wound is bleeding heavily
  4. The wound is over/near a joint, tendon or eyes.
  5. The wound is very dirty or appears to have something foreign in it e.g. a piece of wood.
  6. The horse is very lame.
  7. The horse is not up to date with tetanus vaccinations.

Things To Remember

Don’t Panic

The average healthy 16hh horse can lose up to 25% of its blood volume before it becomes a serious problem. This equates to 18 litres of blood – around 2 standard water buckets, so blood loss is rarely life threatening.

Your Own Safety Is The Most Important Thing

However much you want to help your horse, do not do anything that will endanger yourself or anyone helping you. It may be necessary to wait until your vet arrives so they can administer sedation to your horse to allow examination and treatment.

Try To Keep Your Horse Calm Until The Vet Arrives

Whether this is by getting a bucket of feed or their favourite lick, if you can distract them until the vet arrives then this will greatly help your horses stress levels.

A Pressure Bandage Placed To Stem Blood Flow Should Not Be Left On Long Term

Once the bleeding has stopped then it should be replaced with a correctly fitting bandage.

It Is Vital that Your Horse Is Protected Against Tetanus When They Have A Wound

The tetanus bug lives in the soil, so can easily enter through even the smallest of cuts, and is fatal if left untreated. If your horse receives a wound and is not up to date with its vaccinations, we can provide emergency tetanus cover but it is essential that this is given immediately. Tetanus is a deadly but entirely preventable disease, so please contact the practice for further information if you are unsure.

If In Any Doubt At All, Please Ring Your Vet

Even if it is just to put your mind at rest. We can then advise whether your horse needs to be seen immediately, whether it can wait until the following day, or whether you can manage the problem yourself.

Out of hours emergency

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