OK. There’s blood. Maybe a lot of blood. But the first rule of equine first aid is “stay calm.” That accomplished, it’s time to treat your horse’s wound.
How you proceed will depend on circumstances, but the following equine first aid guidelines will help.
Catch and calm your horse to prevent further injury. If possible, move the horse to a stall. Do this only if it won’t further injure the horse. Before you try to evaluate or treat a wound, get some help. Your job will be easier and safer if you have assistance.
Distract your horse with a little hay or grain. This can take his mind off the pain.
Get your equine first aid kit. That’s the well-marked, easily accessible, fully stocked kit you keep handy at all times. If you don’t have a well stocked first aid kit, consider buying a ready made first aid kit.
Evaluate the location, depth, and severity of the wound. If you have the slightest feeling that it’s an emergency, call the vet.
Call your vet if:
There appears to be excessive bleeding.
The entire skin thickness has been penetrated.
The wound occurs near or over a joint.
Any structures underlying the skin are visible.
A puncture has occurred.
A severe wound has occurred in the lower leg at or below knee or hock level.
The wound is severely contaminated.
Whenever a horse is bleeding profusely, get control of the horse and get control of the bleeding. Don’t put yourself at risk. Apply a pressure bandage as soon as possible; don’t try to clean the wound. Don’t try to remove debris or foreign objects. Stop the bleeding by covering the wound with a sterile, absorbent pad and applying firm, steady, even pressure to the wound.
Remember that a horse can lose a lot of blood before it becomes life-threatening.
The two most common wound cleansing products are an iodine-based substance (such as Betadine) or a chlorhexidine-based substance (such as Nolvasan). These scrubs generally are applied with clean tap water and clean cotton or gauze sponges.
Sterile saline also is available in large bottles and is suitable for wound cleansing.
Do not use witch hazel, full strength alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can cause a great deal of tissue damage and delay healing.
Do not medicate or tranquilize the horse unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. If the horse has suffered severe blood loss or shock, the administration of certain drugs can be life-threatening.
If the eye is injured, do not attempt to treat. Wait for your veterinarian.
If your horse steps on a nail or other sharp object and it remains embedded in the hoof, first clean the hoof. Do not remove the object without consulting your veterinarian. Apply antiseptic and wrap to prevent contamination.
All horses being treated for lacerations or puncture wounds will require an equine tetanus booster.
Once your horse has begun healing, keep the wound clean and dry. As the wound is healing, consider applying Preparation H (yup, the hemorrhoid stuff). It contains many essential fatty acids that improve the health of damaged tissue. It also contains an ingredient that soothes and relieves the itching that might be caused by healing, helping the horse leave the area alone.