A well stocked first aid kit is something every equestrian should have. It can make a huge difference to how you handle an emergency, whether you’re treating a minor wound or waiting for the vet to come and deal with a more serious problem.
Here are a few things to include in you natural first aid kit:
Get a stethoscope to check the animal’s heart rate. While the normal heart rate for a horse is 36 to 40 beats per minute, a horse with a minor colic will have a heart rate of about 48 beats per minute. A rate over 60 indicates a severe problem; if it does not decrease with homeopathic remedies and Pro Bi or KLPP, give the horse flunixine meglumine (brand name Banamine). If the elevated heart rate continues or worsens, call the vet.
If you do not have a stethoscope, you can also take the horse’s pulse by putting your fingers across the vein that runs around the edge of his jaw; it’s right where the jaw starts to bulge out in a round curve about halfway between the muzzle and ears. You will feel a pulse under your fingers. It’s easiest to take the pulse by counting for a ten-second period and multiplying the results by six.
• A thermometer is another important tool. A horse’s temperature should be between 99ºF and 101ºF. A temperature of 103ºF or higher probably means a fever. Temperatures over 105ºF can be dangerous. A horse with a temperature this high can be cooled by applying alcohol or cold water to the jugular vein in the furrow of the neck, nose, and legs.
A horse with colic will usually have a normal or decreased temperature, whereas a horse with a respiratory infection will generally have an elevated temperature. Exceptions are horses with an infection or inflammation in the stomach that can cause colic with fever, as well as other causes of infection such as a wound.
• It’s a good idea to keep a list of what your horse’s heart rate, pulse and temperature should be, because people often forget what the normals are in an emergency.
• Advanced Biological Concepts makes a product called Probi, while KAM Animal Services has one called KLPP. I would advise carrying one or the other in your first aid kit to give to a colicky horse. These products are also useful for stomach ulcers that are aggravated with the stress of showing or traveling. Give the horse 30cc orally if he is acting colicky. You can repeat the Pro Bi or KLPP two to three times daily to help rebalance the horse’s normal gut flora.
• A good, bright flashlight will help if you need to administer first aid to your horse after dark.
• A bottle of saline solution and a small bottle of betadine solution are also in my first aid kit. Put 1cc of betadine solution in about 250cc of saline and use a syringe to flush out a deep wound.
• Hydrogen peroxide is useful for cleaning out a dirty wound. Because it’s irritating to healing tissue, it should only be used the first day.
• Tea tree oil is a good antiseptic for wounds, and may also be used to treat fungal dermatitis.
• Grapefruit seed extract is another antibacterial and antifungal product, and can be diluted and given orally to treat infection.
• Banamine, either in a paste or injectable form, is handy for treating unrelenting pain.
• Colloidal silver is a very good antibacterial product. It is usually given for a minimum of two weeks, and often for 30 days to treat a chronic infection.
• You will also need Vet Wrap and cotton to bandage legs, and scissors to cut bandages with.
• Duct tape can be applied to the bottom of a hoof to keep it clean and protected.
• If you are going to be in an area where you cannot easily trailer out to a veterinarian, you may want to carry lidocaine to numb wound edges, and suture material to close a wound. You should be able to purchase both from your local veterinarian. You will need some type of needle and needle holder to put in the sutures.
• Disposable plastic gloves will be useful to protect your hands, or protect wounds from dirt on your hands.
• Bring an ice pack and perhaps some bags of frozen peas to use for swelling. Vet Wrap is good for holding ice on a leg.
• I would also have Epsom salts and some type of 3” to 4” deep rubber pan to soak an abscessed foot in. Bring a hoof pick and some type of stiff brush to clean out feet with. Baby diapers work well to bandage a foot; the bottom of the diaper can be covered with duct tape to strengthen the walking surface.
• Mineral oil is given for colic. It is most helpful if the horse has impaction colic and is constipated due to the blockage. A gallon of mineral oil can be given via a syringe, or poured into the horse’s mouth from a large plastic soda bottle. Be sure you don’t get the oil in your horse’s lungs; you should be okay as long as you don’t lift the horse’s head too high when administering the oil.
• Bach Rescue Remedy can be helpful for calming a stressed horse or to treat shock. It comes in a spray for easy administration.
Homeopathics for first aid
Homeopathic remedies come in different potencies; a good potency for a first aid kit is between 9C and 30C. You can buy them at health food stores or purchase them online from Washington Homeopathic or other vendors.
The remedies are most easily carried in the form of small sugar pills soaked in the medicine. You can place the pill directly in your horse’s mouth or dilute it in a little water in a syringe and squirt it into his mouth. The animal should not be given food or water for five to ten minutes before and after you give him a homeopathic remedy. It is best to keep your remedies out of direct sunlight, away from a heat source, and not close to radio or computer equipment.
When you’re on the go
You can’t lug all this stuff everywhere, of course, so divide your kit between a small satchel you can take with you when you ride, and a larger container that you can leave in your horse trailer.
If I was going to take a few remedies with me in a saddlebag, I would choose:
• Arnica montana for trauma
• Rhus tox for sprains
• Phosphorus to stop bleeding
• Apis for insect bites and stings
• Nux vomica for colic
• Flunixine meglumine paste for pain, snake bite, and colic
• Roll of Vet Wrap to bandage a leg
• Some cotton if there’s room
You may not ever have occasion to use everything in your first aid kit, but having all these tools and remedies on hand provides peace of mind, and the assurance that if an emergency does happen, you’ll be prepared to deal with it.
Veterinarian Dr. Lu Ann Groves has over 25 years of experience in equine medicine. Her clinic, The Whole Horse, in San Marcos, TX uses the best of conventional and alternative medicine to provide excellence in patient care. Visit www.thewholehorse.com or call 512-396-2234