The following is a guide to assembling a first-aid kit that will leave you well prepared to handle any injuries or illnesses you may encounter with your horse when you’re on the road. Your first-aid supplies should be clean, well organized and easy to locate. I suggest that my clients organize their supplies in a watertight plastic container with labeled sections for easy access. To organize the kit, I like to put antimicrobial scrubs and solutions together in a separate container that can be used to hold water if it’s needed to clean a wound and will prevent bottles from leaking on other items when not being used. I also like to organize bandaging materials into “bandage kits.” A 1-quart Ziploc bag will hold the supplies needed to apply a single bandage. This allows you to simply grab a bandage kit without thinking about the individual components when it’s time to wrap a wound.
Your kit will include both over-the-counter supplies and prescription medications. Keep a detailed list, including dosing recommendations and expiration dates, with your prescription medications and update it regularly. Store your first-aid kit in an easily accessible location in your horse trailer so you can grab it in a hurry.
• Stethoscope to check your horse’s heart rate and listen for gut sounds.
• Thermometer to take your horse’s rectal temperature.
• Antibiotic wound ointment: Silver sulfadiazine or triple antibiotic ointment are both good options that can be used to dress abrasions or wounds.
• Bandage material: Enough to apply a pressure wrap on a wound and a set of standing bandages for swollen legs. This would include sterile, non-adhesive pads, stretch gauze, sheet cottons, 6-inch brown gauze, Vetrap and a roll of self-adhesive tape.
• Antimicrobial scrub (betadine or chlorhexadine) to clean wounds.
• Antimicrobial solution (betadine or chlorhexadine) to flush puncture wounds; should be diluted approximately 1 to 10 with saline or water.
• Saline solution to clean wounds or flush out swollen, weepy eyes.
• Large syringe (30 to 60 cc) for flushing wounds or eyes.
• Safety razor to shave hair away from wounds for cleaning.
• Shoe-pulling tools to remove a shoe that’s become loose or sprung.
• Duct tape: Most commonly you need duct tape to protect a foot that’s lost a shoe or to secure a bandage.
Ask your vet to help you assemble prescription medications that might be needed when you’re far from home. He or she will give you recommendations for their use based on your specific horse. The following are some examples of prescription drugs that can come in handy if you know how to use them:
• Tranquilizers: A dose of a fairly potent tranquilizer (usually containing some combination of xylazine, butorphanol and/or detomidine) for each horse in your trailer can be a lifesaver if you break down on the road and have to calm your horse. These medications can also come in handy as a safe first line of defense if colic symptoms strike. Your vet may also recommend that you have a bottle of Acepromazine if you need a milder sedative. If you’re not comfortable with injections, ask about Dormosedan Gel, a very effective oral sedative that’s now available.
• Antibiotic ophthalmic ointment: One that contains only antibiotics is safe to use for most eye conditions, including a scratched or abraded cornea.
• Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory: Phenylbutazone (“bute”), flunixin meglumine (Banamine) or firocoxxib (Equioxx) would be advised in many different situations, including a tendon or ligament strain, inflamed eye or any other injury. Ask your vet about proper dosing and when to use these medications.
• Antibiotics: Several doses of antibiotics to begin treatment for a wound will ward off an infection until you can seek veterinary attention. Again, ask your vet about proper dosage for your horse.
• Corticosteroids: A dose of a steroid such as dexamethasone can be helpful for allergic reactions such as a case of hives or attack of stinging insects.
Barb Crabbe, DVM, received her doctorate in veterinary medicine from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. She is an active dressage rider and competitor who has claimed numerous Regional Championships and Horse of the Year awards over the years. A graduate with distinction from the USDF “L” judges program, she is a former board member of the Northwest Equine Practitioners Association and the Oregon Dressage Society. Based in Oregon City, Oregon, she operates Pacific Crest Sporthorse.