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What you do and what you don't need in a horse First Aid Kit Part 1
Do you have a Horse First Aid Kit on your yard? What about one for your trailer or horsebox? Many owners just have a few items scattered around the yard, whilst some owners just keep meaning to update their kit, but haven’t actually got round it it yet. Read part 1 of this two part article first aid specialist and trainer Nicola Kinnard-Comedie to find out what items you should have to hand.
Owner of NKC Training, 30/03/2020
How to create a Horse First Aid Kit
Creating the perfect Horse First Aid Kit isn’t that difficult, and you don’t actually need that many products. So here’s a run through of some essential items to include in your Horse First Aid Kit.
1. Products to clean a wound with : Salt or Saline Solution and gauze swabs
As a horse owner you will be cleaning wounds, and you need to be able to clean a wound without causing any further damage to the tissue. Many owners will have ‘hibiscrub’ as part of a horse first aid kit, but this is actually much too strong, is generally used incorrectly and can in fact slow down wound healing. Hibiscrub is best left for very very dirty wounds, or to be used on advice of your vet.
Saline solution is a much more appropriate product to clean wounds with, and you can use a prepared solution or make up your own using a teaspoon of salt in a pint of cooled boiled water. Using saline solution you can get the wound nice and clean without causing any further damage or irritation to the wound. Gauze swabs are ideal for cleaning wounds, and much better than cotton wool as no residue if left in the wound. You don't need specific equine gauze swabs, and human gauze swabs can be easily purchased online, they are not expensive either.
Disposable gloves and a clean bucket or pot will make the job of cleaning a wound a lot easier and more hygenic.
2. Products to apply to a wound
The ideal product to apply to a wound is hydrogel, this will keep the wound moist and clean, and promote a good healing environment. Contradictory to what many owners think the vast majority of wounds actually need to be kept moist and wounds don’t need to be ‘dried out’ to heal. As an owner you are only treating fairly basic superficial wounds yourself, and if in any doubt you should be seeking the advice of your vet. You can’t make a wound heal faster, you are just trying to create the best healing environment for the wound.
3. Basic bandaging materials
Once the wound has been cleaned and a topical product applied, most wounds benefit from being covered with a non stick dressing. You must use something that won't stick to the wound otherwise you will be simply removing all the new cells each time you change the dressing. Melolin is my top choice as it is inexpensive, widely available and comes in an array of sizes.
After a non-stick dressing is applied you need to hold this in place with a simple bandage, and you need a padding layer and an outer layer for this. Owners are often surprised that you need a secondary layer for a basic bandage but it is essential to provide smooth even pressure, with no lumps or pressure points.
For the secondary layer I find Soffban is a great product to use. Soffban is very soft, fine cotton wool rolled up like an exercise bandage, and it's easy to apply. If you pull it too hard it breaks, which prevents the bandage becoming too tight.
Cotton wool or gamgee can be used in place of Soffban, and cutting a roll in half (or purchasing half sized rolls) makes it much easier to apply. A top layer is then required to complete a basic bandage, and Vetrap (or any cohesive bandage) are an ideal product to use. It is a stretchy, cohesive supportive dressing designed to keep wound dressings in place.
4. Poultice Kit
Dealing with a hoof abscess is a challenge that most owners will face, so having the necessary kit to hand is really helpful. Once an abscess has been identified, and cut out by your vet or farrier a poultice will help drain out the remaining infection.
For a poultice kit you will need animalintex, scissors, a shallow tub or bucket, Vetrap and duct tape, a nappy can also be helpful. To create a poultice simply cut the dressing to size, briefly soak in cooled boiled water and place on the affected area. Next you need to secure this in place, Vetrap is helpful for this, and some owners like to use a nappy to hold the dressing in place. Duct tape is then used over the top to keep the poultice in place.
5. Other essential items
Contact telephone numbers, both for yourself and for your vet, including the out of hours phone number are useful to include. It is sensible to have another person who can be contacted in your absence, and a list of local transport companies just in case your lorry or trailer is not usable in the event of an equine emergency.
A thermometer is certainly an essential item to include in your Horse First Aid Kit, and a basic human thermometer for a local chemist or supermarket is more than sufficient. Taking your horse's temperature is an important vital sign to measure, it is a great way to know normal for your horse and can be very helpful information for your vet in the event of your horse being unwell.
A torch, or even better a head torch, is the final must have item, because horses being horses not everything happens in the daylight. Whilst many mobile phones have a torch these aren’t always that bright, and what happens when your battery runs out?!
I hope this inspires you to go and create the perfect Horse First Aid Kit, why don’t you team up with a couple of horsey friends and order these products together, as they are often cheaper if you buy in bulk.
Stay tuned for Part 2 which tells you about the products you dont need in your first aid kit!
How can Haygain help?
Another essential bit of kit for the yard, although it wont fit into your first aid kit bag, is the Haygain hay steamer. Steaming hay reduces 99% of dust, mold, bacteria and fungi which has a number of benefits to respiratory health, digestive health, skin conditions, hydration and performance. Steamed hay is also highly palatable and is the preferred choice over dry hay or even haylage. Find out more on the benefits below.