First Aid – Be Prepared!
The most common equine emergencies are: colic, skin wounds, eye
injuries, tying up, severe lameness (abscess, fracture, laminitis),
and infections (bacterial, viral). Having an emergency kit of
medications from your veterinarian can help you treat your horse
until the veterinarian arrives. In some cases it may save your
horse’s life or save a vet call.
Always advise your vet of emergency situations and
ask for advice on treatment before administrating any medications.
If there is an open wound, cover it to keep it clean. Apply a firm
wrap to control bleeding and minimize swelling while waiting for
your vet’s advice. If there is still bleeding from a limb, a
tourniquet may be applied above the wound to decrease the blood
For colic, giving KAM’s KLPP (a pre & probiotic) and
hand walking may help. Having FRE liquid, a natural
anti-inflammatory, available for injuries will help with the pain,
heat, and swelling. You can support the immune system with transfer
factors (TF-Formula) to help prevent or fight infections (bacterial,
viral, and fungal). TF may be used alone or in combination with drug
therapies. As a general rule, don’t give any grain or oral
medications without checking with your vet if you are unsure of the
Knowing what is “normal” is helpful to determine
abnormal to evaluate your horse. The pulse (heart rate) at rest is
usually 28-44 beats per minute for an adult horse. Foals are faster.
A horse cantering can have a heart rate over 200 beats per minute.
Pain, fear, excitement, exercise, and disease can increase the
The pulse may be taken by feeling the heart beat
(place your fingertips between the ribs in the right axilla, in
front of where the girth would be), listening to the heart beat in
this area with a stethoscope, or feeling the artery pulse along the
bottom of the jaw.
Normal respiratory rate for a horse at rest is 12-20
breaths/min (30-40 for foals). A horse’s temperature will vary on
its environment, but normal is 99.8-101.3F. On a hot day and after
exercise, the temperature will be above normal. On a cold winter day
and standing around it may be lower than 99.8F. If you are not sure
if your horse’s temperature is normal, compare it to a few other
horses in the same area. A digital thermometer used rectally is a
good way to take the temperature.
Capillary refill time (CRT) and color of the mucous
membranes, gums, is helpful to check for dehydration, shock,
toxicity, and anemia. Being able to feel and evaluate the digital
pulses to the hooves can help monitor for abscess and laminitis.
Listening for gut sounds can help with colic. Ask your vet to show
you how to check the CRT, find the digital pulse in the legs, where
to listen for the pulse and gut sounds. Then practice doing your
exam and learning what is “normal” for your horse.
This tip was brought to you by KAM Animal Services,
home of KAM’s “Equine Learning Circle” FREE webinars, which will
take place twice a month. Go to
to sign up for the January 31st (targeting balanced feed and
supplements) webinar. These webinars will conclude with a question
and answer session, so be ready with your nutrition questions.