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Important First Aid Tips and Tricks That Can Help Save Your Horse

What would you do if you were away from the stable and suddenly your horse’s leg buckles or the two of you encounter a snake and it strikes your horse? If something were to happen at your stable or on your pasture, a quick phone call to the vet will take care of most any problem, but if you are riding in the back country you do not have that luxury.

At that point in time it is up to you to adequately assess the injury or problem and take the important first steps in helping your horse deal with the injury.
Probably the most important first step in providing emergency aid to your animal is you being prepared with a well stocked first aid kit. It should contain Vetrap and duct tape, liquid penicillin and blood clot medications, as well as syringes and painkillers.

Additionally, learn what to do in situations that you are most likely to encounter. For example, the odds of your

horse stepping on a nail that imbeds itself in its hoof are good. Generally speaking, it is better to keep the nail in the hoof to ward off infection, unless you have a long way to travel, in which case you will need to remove the nail. If you decide to remove the nail while still away from your stable, make sure that you mark its location and protect the hoof to keep it as clean and dry as possible so as not to worsen the situation. The penicillin will come in handy now as a first line of defense against infection, while the duct tape will protect the bottom of the hoof against dirt, mud and other items that might lead to infection.

On the other hand, if the horse should experience a leg wound, you will want to use a piece of cloth and duct tape to prevent infection. Do not wrap the limb so tight that you cut of circulation since that will create a host of other problems. If possible, a cold creek is a great mode of hydrotherapy and not only will you be able to clean out any wounds but you will also be able to stave off inflammation, keeping the animal more comfortable. Should the injury be higher than the shoulder, you will need to secure a cloth or towel to the area with bungee cords. It is imperative to prevent flies and other parasites from gaining access to the wound. This is true even if the wound should be a puncture wound. You might even want to go ahead and use the syringe of your first aid kit to spray penicillin into the wound.

Leg fractures are trickier, and you will most likely have to rely on whatever materials are nearby where the accident occurred to help support the leg. Ensure that the limb is properly padded and then stabilize it with a tree limb. The goal is to diminish the chance of further damage by getting the animal to the veterinarian as soon as possible without adding any more weight to the leg than is absolutely necessary.
In the case of a snakebite, you will notice that the area around the bite wound will swell up considerably almost immediately after the bite occurs. Away from your stable, the best first aid you can give to the animal is a quirt of penicillin and hydrotherapy in a nearby creek. Because of the potential for life threatening reactions to the venom, it is suggested that you treat every snake as being potentially poisonous, and you will need to ensure that the animal’s nasal passages do not swell shut. To this end you can use a couple of precut pieces of garden hose and insert them into the nostrils. Conversely, the cases of the syringes will be useful as well.

If the eye is injured, simply protect it with a cotton covering until you can have the animal seen by your vet. Another scary situation may occur if the horse suddenly shows symptoms of colic while you are out and about. While it is true that horses will get better eventually if there is no direct treatment, but you will still want to help the animal. Fresh water is helpful, so is rest. Prior to taking off on that backcountry ride, make sure the animal is watered appropriately.

As you are setting out on your trip, make sure that you let other people know where you will be going, how long you expect to be gone, and which trail you are most likely to use. Thus, if you are late in coming back, they may send someone out to meet you and may help you with any unforeseen problems. Use a saddle that distributes the weight evenly across the animal’s back, such as a western saddle, and use pommel bags rather than those that are tied behind the cantle. Plan for inclement weather, even if skies are blue and add a halter and a lead rope to your bags to make sure you can lead the animal if needed. Even though in today’s technology age everyone has a cell phone, do not count on actually having a signal in the backcountry. You are still your horse’s best chance at surviving an emergency.

Read the next horse health tips article on Lumps and bumps, knots and knobs.
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