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Equine Emergency Kit Stocking the equine emergency kit

By Ken Marcella, DVM

We all know the value of anticipating problems and looking ahead, yet emergencies often catch us unprepared. Too few horsemen maintain adequate equine first-aid and emergency kits, and even those who have some supplies on hand do not routinely update them.

It is a good idea to have two emergency kits -- a complete one for the barn and a smaller one for the trailer or the trail.

A plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and a handle is all that is required -- a large fishing tackle box works well. Tape a list of the box's contents to the inside lid. This provides an easy-to-find checklist when updating and maintaining your kit. Remember that drugs and ointments have an expiration date. This is sometimes noted on the list as well, so the items can be replaced as needed.

Many people like to make a diagram of the items' locations within the box as well. When you are trying to calm your horse and hold pressure on a bad cut, you may not be able to tell a helper exactly where the needed supply is in the kit.

Not everyone will need or want to stock all the items listed. A good rule of thumb: keep only items you're comfortable using. No need to have epinephrine on hand if you are uncomfortable giving your horse a shot.

Certain skills, such as checking your horse's temperature and heart rate or wrapping a foot or leg, are required. If you don't know how, get your veterinarian to show you. Practice make perfect, and remember: it pays to be prepared.

Items for a complete kit

-- Four-inch square cotton gauze.

Cotton gauze wraps, three or four inches wide. These can be purchased from your veterinarian or local pharmacy. The cotton squares are used for cleaning cuts and scrapes and can also be used for packing bleeding cuts or as pressure underneath a surface wrap. Use self-locking bags to keep opened packs of gauze clean and dry.

Cotton sheet leg wraps. These are very thin cotton wraps used as the first layer of a standard leg wrap. Usually, four sheets are rolled together and applied to the leg, then a tighter gauze or elastic wrap is applied. The cotton sheets provide support and cushion.

Flannel wraps. Thick cushion wraps with hook-and-loop closures can replace the thin cotton sheets and provide support under a leg wrap. These are best for transportation. Occasionally you will need to wrap a knee or hock and the associated lower leg, thus six are recommended.

Diapers/sanitary napkins. Great for cuts and injuries that tend to have a lot of drainage because they wick fluid from the surface of the wound, they are inexpensive and can be used for a quick, effective bandage.

Vet wrap, Coflex, Flexus, or Elasticon. These products are usually the last layer of a leg wrap and provide support and compression. Elasticon is the strongest and works well holding bandages in place or closing the tops and bottoms of leg wraps to keep debris out.

Hand and bath towels. When cleaning wounds, you'll need to be able to clean yourself and your horse. Occasionally large wounds will need bath towels for pressure and support until veterinary help arrives.

Cold packs. This can be as high-tech as refrigerated equine boots, or as simple as a bag of frozen peas. The semi-thawed pea bag conforms to the sore leg and can be held in place with gauze and vet wrap. The more expensive items come with straps and wraps. Treatment with cold is still the first and most important thing you can do to help a strain or sprain. Application of cold can also slow bleeding and protect damaged tissue.

Duct tape. Duct tape is great for foot wraps; it's inexpensive, water-resistant and can be molded to fit the hoof.

Thermometer. It is essential to have a plastic digital thermometer in your kit. Normal temperature for horses is 99.5° to 101.5°. (Helpful hint: Attach fishing line to the end of the thermometer and a clothespin or alligator clip to the other end of the fishing line. Attach the clip to the horse's tail to keep from losing the thermometer while you're taking the temperature.)

Stethoscope. These are inexpensive and can be used to determine intestinal sounds in cases of colic. Ask your vet to explain what to listen for.

Scissors. Wide, blunt-end type.

Scissors. Small, for suture removal.

Forceps. These can be purchased through a veterinarian and used to remove objects from cuts or punctures. Forceps can be cleaned with alcohol between uses and should be sterilized if they become contaminated.

Tweezers.

Flashlight. A large beam light, a small penlight, and spare batteries.

Twitch.

Pliers and wire cutters. Many times cuts or punctures involve fence or other wire items. A fencer's tool that combines a wire cutter, hammer and pliers is best.

Horse blanket/cooler. There are many situations, such as shock and tying up, where horses may need a blanket, even in hot weather.

Splint material. PVC pipe, one to two feet long, cut and split lengthwise. This is used on the top of a leg wrap to support a leg in the event of severe tendon strain or a fracture. Don't try this for the first time in an emergency situation -- practice putting the PVC splint on a quiet, healthy horse first, and have your veterinarian help you.

Wound scrub. Iodine, Betadine or Nol­va­san.

Wound ointment.

Fly and insect repellents.

Magnapaste/Icthamol. These products are used to help draw infections or abscesses to the surface, and are especially useful for hoof wounds.

Liniment.

Isopropyl alcohol.

Poultice. There are a number of excellent poultices available through your veterinarian or farm supply store. Poultices help reduce leg swelling.

Plastic or brown paper wrap. Used as a wrap over a leg poultice.

Electrolytes. Many commercial products are available that can be added to the food or water or given directly by mouth. These can be used in extreme heat or humidity and in medical conditions such as shock and colic.

Epsom salts. Used as a foot soak for abscess or other hoof pain.

Hoof pick.

Clinch cutter and shoe puller. Every horse owner should learn the proper way to remove a shoe. If a shoe gets loose and twisted, proper and early removal will protect the hoof wall. Ask your farrier or veterinarian for assistance in learning this.

Syringes. Three cc for tetanus and tranquilizer, 10 to 12 cc for pain reliever, 20 and 35 cc for Dipyrone for colic pain relief, 60 cc for flushing and cleaning wounds or for oral administration. Use 20- and 14-gauge needles.