When traveling with your horse, there are a number of items that your first-aid kit should always contain.
Here, we’ll first supply you with a few container tips. Then we’ll provide a checklist of items to include in your travel first-aid kit. We’ll discuss nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and give you a wound/major-injury treatment flowchart.
Tip: Keep a cell phone on you to call a veterinarian for advice or to make an appointment. You might not always have cell service, but it’s wise to have a charged cell phone with you at all times.
Important: If your horse suffers an illness or injury at home or on the road, call a veterinarian immediately, and follow his or her first-aid advice.
Place the first-aid items in a lightweight, sealable, moisture-proof container, such as a plastic or metal toolkit or fishing tackle box.
Look for an easy-to-find bright color. Write “FIRST AID” on the top and sides of the kit with a permanent marker.
Keep the kit in an easily accessible spot; retrieving the kit from a locked truck or trailer will waste valuable time.
Inside the kit, use zip-close, see through bags to keep individual items dry, organized, and easily visible.
■Pen and paper. Use to jot down instructions from the veterinarian, write down your horse’s vital signs, and list phone numbers you may need to call in an emergency.
■Blindfold. Use to cover your horse’s eyes when giving injections, or for any other situations that might cause him to panic.
■Equine thermometer. Attach a string on the end of the thermometer for easy removal.
■Vaseline or other lubricant. Use when inserting the thermometer.
■Stethoscope. Use to take your horse’s heart rate and to listen to his gut sounds to help detect possible colic.
■Bach Rescue Remedy Pet. Use this herbal calming remedy for trailering anxiety or overall excitement. After you use this remedy, you can ride or show directly after consumption. Find the remedy on www.bachrescueremedypet.com.
■Sterile gloves. Use to protect yourself from transfer of infection when treating your horse’s wounds.
■Hand sanitizer. Use before and after you give your horse first-aid, even if you wear gloves, as extra protection against infection.
■Sterile gauze. Use to apply pressure and to provide a wound barrier under a wrap.
■Sanitary napkins/diapers. Use as a sterile, compact bandage to cover an injury, apply pressure, and where absorption is necessary. Use to absorb excessive blood. If necessary, layer the pads/diapers, and cover with Vetrap.
■Poultice pad. Pads with built-in poultice are small and convenient; just add water. Use on stone bruises, abscesses, etc., to draw out heat. Use also to cushion and cool feet and legs. Vetrap™. Use this all-purpose adhesive to provide coverage for all types of bandaging. It’s compact, stretchable, and sticks to itself.
■ Duct tape. Used for wrapping where a stronger hold and waterproofing is necessary, such as for a poultice or foot wrap for an abscess. Use to cover and protect Vetrap.
■Electrical tape. Electrical tape is more elastic than duct tape and provides a little give when using it to secure a wrap. Electrical tape is easy to apply, compact for traveling, and sticks quite well to itself even in cold weather.
■Cold packs. Use to reduce swelling. Small, soft-sided packs will fit into your travel kit.
■Coarse salt. Use to soak a hoof abscess.
■ Alcohol wipes. Use for cleaning and sterilizing a wound.
■Betadine or Hibitane scrub. Look for portable sample sizes in which the ointment is pre-applied. The scrub brush and ointment come in one unit; use for debriding a wound and removing dead tissue.
■ First-aid cream. Use any type of antibacterial wound cream to promote healing and protect the wound from outside infection.
■Zinc oxide. Use for sunburns and scratches.
■Eye ointment. Use for eye wounds. Use a nonsteroidal ointment if you’re not sure whether the eye has been scratched.
■Fly ointment. Apply around a treated wound to protect it from flies. Use an ointment formulated for wounds, such as Farnam’s SWAT Fly Ointment, available from SmartPak Equine (888/864-8147; www.smartpakequine.com).
■Hoof pick. Use a folding one that fits in your pocket or saddlebag. Use it to pick out stones and debris from your horse’s hooves.
■Small flashlight. Use to check areas that might be dark and difficult to see, such as in-between your horse’s legs, or inside his mouth.
■ Scissors. Use round-ended surgical scissors with no sharp points to cut tape and wrap.
■Tweezers. Use to remove splinters, stingers, and thorns.
■Wire cutters. Use to cut your horse out of wire.
■Sharp knife. Choose a folding pocket knife designed for traveling with a blade sharp enough to cut rope and leather, in case you need to cut your horse out of his halter.
■Tick remover. Include if you’ll be riding in an area where ticks are found.
A Word on NSAIDs
Flunixin meglumine(brand name Banamine) and phenylbutazone (brand name Butazolidin, often called Bute) are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) commonly kept in equine firstaid kits to help combat pain and inflammation. However, only administer these drugs under the supervision of your veterinarian.
Here’s a brief rundown on each drug.
• Banamine. Banamine is used for inflammation and pain caused by musculoskeletal disorders, but is most commonly used for pain associated with colic. It’s available in paste or granule form for oral use, and as an injectable. Veterinarians give the injectable form of the drug intravenously.
Never inject Banamine into the muscle, as muscle damage can lead to a condition called clostridial myositis, which can be fatal.
Downsides: Although Banamine is given for colic pain, be aware that Banamine may hide symptoms of a more severe colic case. It can also cause gastrointestinal side effects, including gastric and colonic ulcers, and can create kidney problems in young, old, and ill or dehydrated horses
• Butazolidin. Butazoladin is used for pain relief caused by infections, as well as musculoskeletal disorders, such as sprains, strains, tendonitis, arthritis, and laminitis. Bute comes in a powder and paste for oral use, as well as an injectable form. Like Banamine, Bute should be injected intravenously, never into the muscle.
Downsides: Bute may mask the signs of mild or moderate lameness, worsening a fracture, and it’s much less effective than Banamine for colic pain. Like Banamine, Bute can cause gastrointestinal issues. Young horses may not be able to process Bute.
As the owner of Clix Photography (www.clixphoto.com), Shawn Hamilton travels worldwide to cover equestrian events. Her images regularly appear in top magazines. She lives with her husband, four children, and five horses on a farm in Ontario, Canada.
Laurel Gould has been involved with horses for 50 years. Her experience includes riding, showing, coaching, training, teaching, and judging. She also owns and operates a 50-horse equestrian center in Ontario, Canada.