What To Do First
1. Assess the injury and be ready to relay the details to the vet.
2. Call your vet if the injury is serious and follow the advice they give.
3. Try to prevent further injury i.e. by taking charge of the horse and moving it to somewhere safe.
When To Call The Vet
1. If in doubt, call the vet! It will not necessarily result in a visit, but 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 or the 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.
What Should I Do If…
The wound is bleeding heavily – apply 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 is stopping.
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.
The horse is very lame – if the horse will walk then try to move it slowly to a safe clean area. If the horse does not want to move, then leave it where it is – there may be a fracture underneath the wound. Call your vet straight away, as the horse may have a fracture, or joint/tendon sheath infection.
The wound is very dirty – try to remove as much of the dirt as possible, if the horse will let you hose the wound then this is great. If not, try to clean it as best you can with cotton wool and plain water – but do not put yourself at risk of injury – if in doubt then wait for your 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 your horses’ 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 you would think. It is absolutely essential to call your vet immediately, as prompt action is required in order to get the best chance of recovery. Clear sticky fluid oozing from a wound over a joint could be joint fluid, so make sure you call your vet!
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. Even if an artery has been severed, it takes a long time for 18 litres of blood to be lost.
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 always 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 – advice is free!! Even if it is just to put your mind at rest, we are here to help you, whatever the time of day. 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 – we are always just a phone call away.