A first-aid kit is one of those things you know you really should have in the barn and trailer but may not have gotten around to it. Maybe there’s always ”something else” you think you need more immediately.
Well, if you need motivation, picture finding your horse bleeding, or with a massive bee sting on his nose that’s swelling before your eyes, or trapped in a wire fence. Then consider how differently that horrible scene would play out if you had the materials you needed at your fingertips rather than having to dig through shelves and trunks to find them, if you have them.
We looked at the commercially available kits and designed a Horse Journal wish-list for first-aid supplies, too (see page 9). Before going into that though, there are some important ancillary things to get in order.
Get yourself a good first-aid book (we like First Aid For Horses, by our veterinary editor, Eleanor Kellon, VMD), and familiarize yourself with first aid. Few people have experience with all the possible situations calling for first aid. It really helps to read about them ahead of time, get to know where things are in the book and keep the book at the barn for easy reference.
If you don’t know how to properly handle injured tissue, clean wounds, and bandage/wrap legs and wounds, learn. The middle of a crisis situation is no time to be practicing a new skill, and mistakes can cost you.
Assemble all important phone numbers — your vet, closest vet school or full-service clinic, back-up vet, farrier, and all your own contact numbers in case something happens when you are not there with the horse. Laminate or seal these into a plastic bag and tape or tack them in an easy-to-find location, e.g. on your horse’s stall, on the wall by the phone, in the barn’s office or tack room, or on the top of your trunk.
Also, give some thought to whether or not you want to designate someone to have the authority to make all medical decisions in your behalf, or to leaving an authorization for emergency care, if you can’t be reached.
If there are specific limitations you want used, such as no major surgeries, state that clearly. If there is a financial limit, specify it. This all needs to be put in writing and kept with your emergency contact information.
If you board, and there are times
when you may be there with no one else around, ask the barn owner/manager to suggest some people living nearby you could call if you need help in an emergency. Never try to work on an injured or agitated horse yourself. Always keep a charged cell phone with you, so you can be reached and can reach help if you need it.
Now that we’ve put you in the mood to give some serious thought to emergencies, let’s give some consideration to supplies you need to have on hand. Some of our suggestions will include items you’ll be tempted to use day to day, so mark them with a bright strip of colored tape so you’ll know they were taken from, and/or meant for, the emergency supplies and need to be put back/refilled immediately. You will need:
• Extra halter and lead shank
• Two six-foot cotton ropes
• Pocket knife
• Hoof nippers (can do double duty as shoe pullers and wire cutters)
• Large flashlight and extra batteries
• Small refrigerator if the barn doesn’t have one (for ice packs, medications
that need refrigeration)
• Rope-end twitch
• Clean bucket, preferably made out of stainless steel
• Hoof pick
• Heavy-duty scissors.
None of the kits in our chart were perfect in our mind, as each lacked a few basics. But, it’s not easy to be prepared for every possible emergency, and money is always a factor. You can easily stock for situations you’ll never experience, so manufacturers tend to consider the most likely injuries. As simple as it sounds, building a first-aid kit is not an easy task.
Be aware, too, that products do expire. Antiseptics, ointments and other topical preparations should have expiration dates clearly noted. If not, don’t buy them.
Even bandages can become virtually useless over time, as the packaging becomes old and brittle and no longer capable of keeping a supply sterile. And anything with elastic or adhesive will lose its ”sticky” power with age.
The size of the kit you choose does depend somewhat on the size of your stable. In all likelihood, a one-horse owner who uses his animal more as a lawn ornament than a working horse might not ever need to have 20 bandage pins on hand, let alone six tourniquets.
If you’re not inclined to put your own custom kit together piece by piece, consider a commercial pack that comes close and add the items you want. We applaud Equi-Medic for designing so many kits to meet various sizes and specific needs. We especially like the EquiMedic Trailer Kit for an all-around good starting point, despite its $130 price.
If you’re on a budget, try Valley Vet’s $39.95 kit. Fill in with distilled water and disposable diapers.