The first things to consider when it comes to first aid for horse owners are temperature, pulse and breathing, particularly when your horse isn’t acting himself. Check them regularly so you have a record of his normal temperature, pulse, and respiratory rates on hand for comparison in the event of an accident or illness.
How to Check Your Horse’s Temperature
If possible, get someone to help you hold your horse while you take his temperature. Stand to one side of his hindquarters–never behind–and gently lift his tail. Insert the thermometer a few inches into the rectum and hold for one minute. Keep in mind that normal horse temperatures run 37.5 degrees to 38.5 degrees centigrade.
How to Check For Your Horse’s Pulse
Feel for the artery that runs over your horse’s jaw bone. This is the easiest to get an accurate reading from with practice. A normal heart rate is approximately 20 to 40 beats per minute.
Measuring Your Horse’s Respiratory Rate
A normal horse’s respiratory rate is 8 to 12 breaths per minute. You can either count how many times his nostrils flare in a minute, or how many times his ribs move up and down. This method can be trickier than the others and requires patient practice.
How to Treat a Wound
The first two things to remember if your horse suffers an injury is to keep calm, and secure him immediately. Then, gently wash the wound with water in a slow trickle from a hose or plastic syringe. Once clean, you’re free to assess the depth and severity of the wound. Try to steer clear of antiseptics; simply cleaning it and a light bandage should do the trick until the vet arrives.
Call your vet even if a wound near a joint or tendon looks minor, it can cause unseen long-term damage. If a wound won’t stop bleeding and requires stitches, keep pressure on it until the vet arrives. Be aware that the bleeding may be a result of puncture wounds or a hidden, embedded object.
Signs of Eye Injury
The signs of an eye injury include excessive tearing and blinking, it’s swollen or half shut, can be painful to the touch, or any other visible signs of injury.
In the event of a possible eye injury, always call your vet immediately. If left untreated, eye injuries can lead to infection and loss of sight. Try to keep your horse as calm as possible until your vet arrives, and if anything is protruding from the eye, leave it in until the professional arrives no matter how painful it may look.
Fractures can actually cause your horse to go into shock, so cover him with a blanket and keep him–and you–calm until professional help arrives. Never move your horse if you suspect a fracture, and call the vet immediately. Be prepared your horse may act distressed, have swelling, and sweat profusely due to the pain. Keep in mind not all fractures will be immediately visible, such as a bone sticking out unnaturally, so watch for sudden lameness.
How To Make an Essential First Aid Kit
Make sure to have the following essential items in a handy kit:
- Blunt-ended scissors
- Self-sticking crepe bandages
- Cotton wool
- Torch and wire cutters
- Paper towel or kitchen roll
- Small plastic bowl
Consider making a duplicate kit and keep them in different places so you’ll never be looking for one last minute.
No matter what, it’s always best to call your Vet first and follow directions in an emergency. But having these basic tips in the back of your mind while you wait for help to arrive can make all the difference in your horse’s health. If you have any other first aid for horse owners tips, share them on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!