Horses are experts when it comes to injuring themselves and the more valuable they are the better they are at it!
Horses in training often sustain minor injuries, such as over-reaches, speedy cuts, and abrasions. Wire cuts, rope burns, bites and kicks are common injuries in paddock and stable injuries.
First aid principles
The major aims of first aid for wounds and lacerations should be to:
- Stop bleeding by applying pressure
- Clean and disinfect the wound
- Apply medications and dressings if need be
If wounds are large, require stitching, continue to bleed excessively or in spurts (suggesting an artery has been cut) or involve a joint or tendon, seek immediate veterinary advice.
Treatment of wounds and lacerations
Fresh wounds should be cleaned with saline solution or by lightly hosing to remove dirt and debris. Dry the wound off and apply an antiseptic cream, such as Septicide.
Large open wounds should be cleaned twice daily until a protective scab has formed. Cetrigen Spray can be applied directly into the wound each day after hosing. Allow to dry out and then apply Septicide around the edges of the wound.
Large wounds on the limbs should be protected with a bandage, as they are more prone to swelling and the development of proud flesh. A drying agent such as Cetrigen Spray helps to dry out older, moist wounds and also contains a fly repellent to prevent insects contaminating the wound.
Once wounds have settled down and start to heal, a coating of a Vitamin A ointment daily helps to promote hair re-growth over the injured area.
Dressings and bandages
If a wound is to be dressed, apply appropriate medication, cover with a non-stick swab and place a layer of EquiPadding, Gamgee or cotton wool over the dressing. Use a waterproof elastic bandage such as Vetrap to secure the dressing in place. Wounds should be redressed daily or as advised by your veterinarian.
Bandages should always be rolled around the leg so that the flexor tendon, which runs down the leg behind the cannon bone, is pulled to the inside to minimise stress on the tendon. This means that on the right leg, you roll in a clockwise direction and on the left in an anti-clockwise direction.
All wounds, in particular penetrating wounds that close over and provide an anaerobic (without air) environment, are at risk of infection by tetanus bacteria. Horses that have had previous tetanus vaccines should be given a tetanus toxoid booster. Those without a vaccination history should receive both tetanus antitoxin and tetanus toxoid.
During racing or exercise some horses ‘go down on their bumpers’ with the back of their hind fetlock and ergot area hitting the ground and becoming abraded. This may be due to conformation such as long, sloping pasterns or to front limb pain e.g. shin soreness causing the horse to put more weight on the hind limbs. Felt or rundown patches applied under a Vetrap bandage can be used to protect the fetlock area from rundown injuries.
During racing, horses may also ‘over-reach’ and strike their front heels with the toe of their hind hooves. Over-reach injuries usually involve the bulb of the heel and can be hard to treat as the injury often reopens as the heel is flexed during movement. Over-reaches should be treated in a similar fashion to other wounds but the horse may need to be rested and confined to a yard to avoid the wound re-opening. Cetrigen Spray is useful for drying the wound and discouraging proud flesh once healing has commenced.