First Aid

A Word About Medicating Your Horse

Drugs are seldom important to First Aid Treatments. If there is any doubt about the use of a medication, contact your veterinarian. Some medications can worsen a horse’s condition. For example, tranquilizers can be dangerous if a horse is in shock and pain relievers may mask important symptoms, which could lead to an incorrect diagnosis. Medications may also encourage behavior that may worsen the problem, i.e. colicky horses will eat, injured horses may exercise.

Avoiding Emergencies

Practice Preventative Medicine:

  • Keep current on vaccinations
  • Follow appropriate deworming schedule

Practice Good Horsemanship:

  • Provide fresh water and quality feed in a clean area.
  • Keep stalls clean.
  • Know your horse’s normal habits so you will recognize changes that may indicate that something is wrong.
  • Repair safety hazards in the pasture, barn, and fences.
  • Do not exercise sick or injured horses.
  • Know your horse’s limits, and do not exceed them.

Normal Equine Parameters

A normal horse’s vital signs fall within these ranges. It is a good idea to observe them in your individual horse when he is in a “normal” situation so you will have a better reference when he is under stress.

Temperature: 99.5 – 101.5 degrees F
Pulse: 30-50 beats per minute at rest
Respiratory Rate: 10-25 breaths per minute at rest
Mucous membranes: pink and moist
Intestinal Sounds: should be present
Capillary Refill Time (CRT): less than 3 seconds


  1. Be prepared: Design a first aid kit and be able to use it.
  2. Don’t Panic: You have more time than you think if you use it wisely.
  3. Call for Help: Call your veterinarian for more information when you need help.

Your First Aid Kit

  1. Your veterinarian’s name and phone number.
  2. Have a cell phone handy.
  3. Information about and directions to your location.
  4. Thermometer
  5. Antiseptic scrub (betadine or chlorhexidine base).
  6. Bandage material; gauze sponges, telfa/nonstick pads, cottons, diapers, leg wraps, field dressings, tape.
  7. Antibiotic ointment (water soluble); Furacin (not Corona or other waxy or oil based creams).
  8. Flashlight
  9. Scissors
  10. Sharp knife, wire cutters, pliers
  11. Stethoscope
  12. Information about your horse’s medical history and vaccination/deworming status.
  13. Equine Vitals (Printable PDF)

You can add other things to the kit as you accumulate them!

What you can do

  • Bruising, Sprains, Strains, and Kicks:Signs:Localized pain and swelling with heat in the area.Early Treatment: Assess the lameness and rest the horse.
    If the injury has occurred within the past 24 hours, apply cold water
    20 minutes or ice packs to help control any swelling. If there is
    no improvement or severe lameness is present, call a veterinarian.
  • Eye Problems:Signs: Tearing, squinting, rubbing, swelling, cloudy or
    abormal blue color to the eye.Early Treatment: Examine the eye and determine if a foreign
    body is the cause of the pain. Make sure the eyelid is intact.
    You may flush the eye with eye wash or sterile saline solution.DO NOT MEDICATE THE EYE! Some eye ointments or drops can worsen
    certain conditions, do not apply unless instructed by a veterinarian.*Many eye problems can become severe very quickly, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
  • Colic or Painful abdomen:Signs: Restlessness, pawing, looking at abdomen, lying down/
    rolling, reluctance to eat, depressed attitude, absence of bowel movements or diarrhea.Early treatment: If horse is rolling or thrashing, get him up and
    walk him. If lying quietly, allow to rest. Contact your veterinarian if signs
    do not dissipate within 1 hour or if they worsen. Be prepared to answer questions
    about your horse’s diet, deworming protocol, mucous membrane color, temperature,
    and respiratory/heart rates.*If veterinary attention is not readily available, pain relievers such as Banamine
    may be given to make the horse more comfortable. Be prepared to inform your veterinarian
    of the dose, time given, and route of administration. See note above on medications!!
  • Tying Up-(Azoturia, exertional muscle problems):Signs: Reluctance to move, sweating, hind muscles are tender, painful,
    and/or quivering. You may see dark brown urine.Early Treatment: Do not move the horse! Call your veterinarian.
  • Lacerations:Early treatment: Know the date of your horse’s last tetanus vaccination!
    Irrigate the wound with cold water. If the wound is bleeding profusely, apply
    direct pressure. Lower limb wounds may be bandaged. If pressure will not control
    the bleeding a tourniquet can be applied above the wound, but must be loosened for
    1 minute every 15-30 minutes to avoid injury due to lack of blood supply. Keep the
    wound covered, if possible, and protected from flies.Medications: If the wound is full thickness (through the skin) it will
    likely need to be sutured. In this case, do not apply any topical medication to
    the area, as this may hinder wound healing. A furacin ointment or spray may be
    applied to superficial wounds.* Deep wounds over joints or tendons are likely to need extensive veterinary
    care and should be taken seriously. Wrap the area and call your veterinarian immediately.
  • Puncture Wounds:These wounds can often be more serious than they may first appear. Do not underrate
    punctures in the hoof or wounds over joints. If a nail or other foreign object is
    embedded in the sole or frog, do not remove it before contacting your veterinarian.
    Be prepared to inform your veterinarian of the wound’s location and the degree of
    lameness your horse is presenting.
  • Choke:This is a term to describe obstruction of the esophagus. It rarely involves blockage
    of the windpipe, but aspiration of food material into the windpipe can occur.Signs: Food material and/or saliva draining from nostrils shortly after eating.Treatment: Remove food and water. Call a veterinarian.Prevention: Regular dental exam/floating. Discourage horses from “bolting”
    food by feeding smaller meals at more frequent intervals and/or placing large rocks
    in feed pan that they must eat around.