First Aid -

Equistar School of Riding
First Aid
You should be aware of your horse’s normal vital signs, a change in the vital signs is a good
early warning that your horse may be ill. The normal vital signs for a horse are
99 – 100 F, 38C
Heart Rate:
32-40 beats/minute in an unstressed horse (at rest)
8-12 breaths/min (at rest)
Minor cuts and scrapes are a part of every horse’s life. Just like we get paper cuts, scratches or
bruises, so can your horse. It is important to be aware of your horses’ physical condition.
Grooming your horse is a good time to check your horse for new cuts and scrapes or other signs
of illness. If during the course of grooming you discover a new injury to your horse, follow the
following steps to treat the injury.
Minor Cuts and Scrapes
1. Clean the wound with water and betadine scrub
2. Dry the wound
3. Put an antibiotic ointment on the wound
4. Bandage the wound if necessary
Bruises and Swelling
1. Run cold water over swelling to help reduce inflammation and soreness
2. Apply liniment as necessary
3. Wrap legs if necessary
4. Call your vet if the swelling continues for more than 48 hours.
When a horse injures itself, the wound tends to swell about 24 hours after the original injury. The
injury may appear worse the day after, especially on a horse’s leg. You can help reduce the
inflammation with anti-inflammatory drugs and hosing the area with cold water. Gentle exercise
will also help to keep the blood flow moving. A pain reliever (bute) can also help.
If you should notice a major injury to your horse, the important thing is to keep calm and
call your vet immediately. Make sure to provide your vet with the following information:
1. What is the nature of the injury?
2. Where is the wound?
3. How is the wound bleeding? In arterial bleeding, blood spurts out, venous
bleeding is slower and more consistent.
4. How recent is the wound/injury?
5. If the horse is lame, is there heat in the hoof and a digital pulse?
6. Age, condition of horse (i.e. in foal, thin, fit, overweight)
7. Make sure you tell the vet the steps you have taken so far in treatment.
There are several times when you may want to bandage your horse’s legs. Proper technique is very
important. Improper bandaging, can cause discomfort, restrict blood flow and potentially damage
tendons and other tissue. Leg bandages can be used to provide support for tendons and ligaments
during workouts, prevent or reduce swelling after exercise or because of injury, protect legs during
trailering, protect leg wounds from dirt and aid in healing.
How to Bandage
 Remove dirt and other debris from legs to prevent irritation
 Make sure the legs are dry
 Use clean, dry bandages
 Make sure any wounds have been cleaned
 Apply padding so it lies flat and wrinkle free
 Start the wrap on the inside halfway up the leg.
 Do not start or end over a joint (fetlock, knee)
 Wrap the leg from front to back, outside to inside
(counterclockwise on left, clockwise on right)
 Wrap in spiral pattern – going down the leg and up again
 Overlap the earlier layers by at least 50%
 Use smooth, even pressure
 Be careful not to wrap too tight or too loose
 Check bandages daily
 Pick a fun color you like!
Every barn should have a basic first aid kit to deal with minor and major injuries. A complete
first aid kit should include:
Veterinarians Phone #
Wound Powder/Ointment
Antibiotic Aerosol
Fly Repellent
Wound Dressings
Tape or Safety Pins
Epsom Salts
Cup or Container
Latex Gloves
Hoof pick
Instant Cold/Hot Compresses
Zip Lock Bags
Brochure on Emergency Care
Horses have very sensitive digestive systems. Colic is the term for a stomachache in a horse.
Colic should always be treated as an emergency and your vet called immediately. Some signs
of colic are loss of appetite, sweating, lethargy, and general lack of interest in surroundings.
The horse will look around at its flanks, paw the ground, or kick at its belly. The horse
commonly, will try to frequently get down and roll to relieve the discomfort.
A horse with colic should be kept calm and quiet. It is not good to let the horse roll as this may
cause serious complications such as a twisted gut. It is best for a horse with colic to be kept up
on it’s feet and walking around.
Strangles is a respiratory (breathing/lungs) infection. Your horse will have a runny nose with a
thick nasal discharge. Strangles can also cause a fever and coughing in a horse, as well as
enlargement of the lymph glands in the jaw.
Strangles is highly contagious. It can be spread in many ways by direct contact, tack, feeding or
grooming kits. It is important to quickly isolate any horse with suspicious signs.
Thrush is found in the frog of a horse’s hoof, it becomes soft and emits a foul odor. This odor
makes Thrush easily identifiable. Treatment involves a thorough cleaning of the horse’s hooves
and application of a Thrush specific ointment. Thrush is more common in the winter when the
ground stays wet. Frequent cleanings of your horse’s hooves can help prevent Thrush.
Scratches is a skin infection on the lower part of the legs. They frequently occur, in wet, cold,
weather and is due to putting a horse with wet legs away, and may be due to an irritation of the
More than one leg is usually involved and horses with white markings seem to be more
Treatment involves a thorough cleansing of the affected legs with a medicated shampoo to
remove all dirt, pus and other material. The legs should be dried completely before applying a
soothing ointment (like Corona) to the scratches. The legs should then be bandaged. It may be
necessary to repeat this treatment daily for quite some time.
Detecting lameness is not always easy. Often times it is the rider who will notice first that
something is not right with their horse. The trot is the best gait for determining lameness
however; lameness can sometimes be obvious at the walk or the gallop. When trotting a lame
horse tries to avoid pain by reducing the weight on the lame limb. They accomplish this by
altering the position of their head or hindquarters.
To detect lameness, ask someone else to trot the horse on a hard, level surface. The horse
should be trotted on a loose rein. For foreleg lameness trot the horse toward you, for hind leg
lameness trot the horse away from you. A horse will bob its head when the lame foreleg hits the
ground (looks like it is nodding). In hind leg lameness watch the hindquarters, they will be
raised on the side that is lame when that leg hits the ground.
A good daily grooming is the first step to preventing injury or illness in your horse. Make sure to
check over your horse carefully while grooming. Make notes about your horse’s attitude, condition,
any new scratches or bumps?
Worming your horse at least once a quarter (every 3 months) is very important to your horse’s
overall health. Your horse may suffer from worms by ingesting worm larvae while grazing or
eating. Worms have the ability to live for a long time inside a horse. Adult worms living in a
horse’s digestive system can cause damage to the horse by damaging the intestines, or depriving
the horse of needed nutrition.
If you find a tick on your horse a good way to get rid of it is to give your horse a paste wormer.
Don’t try to pull the tick off.
Make all changes to feed gradually. Changing a horse's feed rapidly can lead to colic and other
serious ailments.
You should properly warm your horse up before strenuous exercise and cool your horse down
after strenuous exercise. Just like you, your horse is an athelete.
To cool your horse after exercise make sure you walk your horse for an average ten minutes.
You should walk your horse no less than 5 minutes and no more than ½ an hour. After walking
for five minutes, feel your horse under the chest if their body is warmer than your hand keep
walking. In cold weather make sure to cover your horse with a lightweight cooler to help them
maintain a constant body temperature and prevent a chill while cooling them out.