If you don’t have a large piece of wood to knock on, go find some right now. Right Now. Because I know you just said to yourself that you don’t need to make a first aid kit for your horses. Wrong, wrongity, wrong. It’s when we become complacent and lazy that we happen to need an emergency kit. I’ve narrowed it down to the top 15 essentials for your horse first aid kit. These items have been tried, tested, and now have a permanent home in my first aid tote. And in case you were wondering why I’ve chosen particular brands, it isn’t because I was paid or given free product, but because I KNOW these items work and work well. If you want proof, check out this post on Spirit’s massive leg injury otherwise known as “why I spent a couple grand to redo the fencing”. I’ve also included a handy-dandy checklist and emergency guide that you can print and keep tack up in your barn, by your horse’s stall, in your horse trailer, and your emergency kit.
First, let’s talk containers. Really, this is a matter of what will keep your items protected, clean, and in an easily accessible place. I love these plastic stack-able containers with drawers – for the most part my emergency supplies are kept dust free and dry. You can find these at Walmart or Target for a few dollars. A few other suggested containers: plastic bins with lids, waterproof bags with zippers, and any type of sturdy wall cabinet (repurpose an old one for your barn).
So what to put into that container? These are my essentials (note: the links are NOT affiliate links and images are from SmartPak.com):
Adhesive Wrap: 3M Vetrap is the name brand that I prefer – I’ve tried others and they don’t seem to unroll as nicely as this brand or last as long in terms of durability throughout the day. I highly recommend that you have at least 10 rolls per horse in your emergency kit.
Wound Cleanser: there are traditional wound cleansers like Novalson and Betadine that many vets and horse owners prefer. Personally I swear by Vetericyn Plus All Animal Wound Care spray – this stuff was a lifesaver with Spirit’s major leg injury. This spray doesn’t need to be rinsed off of the wound which means less ouch handling time and it helps to maintain a level of moisture necessary for healing wounds. Check out this article on moist wound healing procedures.
Non-Stick Bandages: these are available at drug stores and come in a variety of sizes – I recommend grabbing the two largest sizes available. You can always cut the bandages into smaller sizes if necessary. No need to go name brand on this product – the store brand is just fine. Pack these away in a durable resealable baggie inside of your emergency kit container.
Gauze Rolls: this can be used over non-stick bandages or as a washrag for cleaning up areas around wounds amongst other uses. These are also available at most drug stores and no need to go name brand. Pack a couple of rolls into a plastic zip baggie to keep dust free and dry.
Elastikon Bandage Tape: this is super durable and a great layer of protection when wrapping a wound. It can be expensive through a vet but be sure to stock up on a few rolls until you can find it from a less expensive supplier.
Gorilla Glue Duct Tape: abscesses make the hoof grown fonder…or not. Make sure you have duct tape on hand for this lovely little task amongst other awesome uses.
Animalintex Poultice Pads: these are golden when you need to heal a large open wound but the beauty of this product is it can be used cold OR hot and cut down to the size needed! I went through a ton of these while wrapping Spirit’s leg wound – it helped to draw out and prevent infection.
Gamgee Absorbant Pad/Wraps: these are great for layering over large wounds (particularly leg wounds) before you wrap with Vetrap and Elastikon. These pads aren’t meant to be placed directly on the wound because they will stick so always keep a non-stick layer between it and the wound.
Latex Gloves: this is a DUH – help prevent infection and yourself with a box on hand at all times. They also come in handy, pun intended, when you need to apply ointments or clean shealths (check out my tutorial here on that lovely task).
Thermometer: you should use my printable horse emergency card to jot down your horse’s vitals, including temperature, before an emergency comes up. One other tip, keep a string attached to the end of the thermometer because there have been cases of “disappearing” thermometers. Let me help put this together for you – the horse sucked the thermometer up via their bum.
Stethoscope: vitals, people, vitals! This will help you to check gut sounds (you should be familiar with those BEFORE an emergency) and, of course, heart rate. Have I mentioned how much you should know about your horse when it isn’t an emergency?
Epsom Salt: keep it dry and sealed if you can – this is an essential for hoof abscesses and always the “one damn thing!” that you won’t have on hand if you don’t plan for it prior to an emergency. And do NOT get the kind that has essential oils.
Sugar: again, dry and sealed in a few plastic baggies. This is the go to when you need to pack an abscess (it’s like magic) and if you need to flavor some water to get a horse to drink.
Scissors: I like to keep both regular scissors and bandage scissors on hand. Always use the bandage scissors when cutting next to horse’s skin or a wound.
Tri-Care Wound Ointment: I love this ointment because it contains a mild pain reliever and a bug repellant – it’s great for small cuts, scraps, etc…
There are some others that really shouldn’t require an explanation:
- Pocket Knife
- Antibacterial Wipes
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Extra Plastic Baggies
- Bottled Water
- First-Aid Book or Phone App
Where to find these goodies? Stock up on medical supplies at horse or animal expo shows. These tend to be the places where the medical supplies flow freely with low prices (rolls of Elastikon for only $3!!).
Now onto the printable, you can download it here and print it out for as many horses or places as you need. It does require you to know your horse’s normal, resting vitals – this handy guide from thehorse.com tells you all about measuring for vital signs.
What do you swear by in your first-aid kit? Anything on my list that you disagree with? Anything that I should add?