Do's and Don'ts of Horse First Aid

Owners inspecting, disinfecting and bandaging an injury on a horse's leg.
Owners inspecting, disinfecting and bandaging an injury on a horse's leg. Mark Sellers

Don't let minor problems become big problems

If you have taken to heart the idea that giving your horse a thorough once-over on a daily basis is the smart thing to do is, you are well on the path to being a responsible horse owner.

On the other hand, if your horse is out-of-sight and out-of-mind a great deal of the time, you may be surprised to find that a minor injury or illness has turned into a costly or possibly life-threatening situation.

Being consistent and thorough in checking out your horse on a regular basis and following through with first aid treatment for minor problems is good for both you and the horse.

Five important general principles of first aid

  1. Always have a first aid kit close at hand along with a syringe of Tetanus Antitoxin and a Tetanus Toxoid booster, and frozen cooling packs
  2. Gently restrain and calm the injured or ill horse
  3. Assess the extent of the illness or injury
  4. Administer appropriate first aid
  5. Call veterinarian for advice and additional treatment when necessary

Initial actions in first aid situations

  • Colic: Remove all feed and water and calmly walk the horse if possible to relieve discomfort and help pass manure. Monitor vital signs.
  • Choke: Remove food and water and keep horse calm.
  • Eyes: Place horse in a dark stall.
  • Lameness: If possible move to stall and provide water.
  • Nervous System: Place in quiet stall, dim lights and decrease all stimulation possible. Remove all feed.
  • Urinary System: Check heart rate and collect urine if possible, especially if discolored, bloody or if horse is straining to urinate
  • Wounds: Clean and cover if danger of contamination. Check to see when last tetanus booster was administered

Two don'ts of first aid:

  • Don't wait to call your veterinarian:
    • Colic can be fatal if gut is twisted or obstructed.
    • Eyes can rupture if not treated properly.
    • Foals can become very sick, very quickly.
    • Fractures and conditions affecting limbs can worsen in a short period of time.
    • Neurological problems can cause a horse to injure itself or people trying to help it.
    • Wounds can affect joints, tendons or vital organs.
  • Don't medicate unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian
    • The wrong medication or medication used or given in an incorrect way can seriously damage the health of your horse.
    • To prevent the need for emergency first aid, evaluate your horse's environment on a regular basis for potential hazards and minimize or remove them.
    • For additional information on any topic, see specific articles in Diseases and Conditions section and other areas of this site.

About the Author

EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.