We have probably all heard we should not place ice directly on the skin. This is true when treating horses, too. While ice freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit it is often much colder. Ice from a typical kitchen freezer can be as cold as -20 F.
Burn occurs when ice is placed directly on the skin. The skin begins to freeze, and ice crystals form within the cell structure causing damage, or “ice burn”.
To avoid crystal formation and ice burn, soak foot and leg injuries in a bucket of ice water. For injuries that cannot be soaked, place a layer of cloth between the ice pack and the skin.
No, do not use hydrogen peroxide to clean your horse’s flesh wound unless you have no other means of cleaning it. While hydrogen peroxide will kill bacteria in the wound it will also kill healthy tissue. Horse wounds can be treated with Nolvasan, Furacin, Corona, Wound Powder, or a diluted Iodine solution.
These treatments should be applied to the wound if your veterinarian is unable to attend to your horse’s injury within the first four to eight hours. If your veterinarian will be treating your horse’s injury within that time frame flush out the wound with cold water and cover it so that it stays clean and doesn’t dry out.
The most important thing to do is not panic. You need to be able to think clearly, make good decisions, and most importantly, try to have a calming effect on your horse.
If possible, move your horse and yourself to a safe place to make an initial assessment of the injury. Trying to assess and treat a horse in an unsafe environment can lead to additional injury for both you and your horse. If possible, tie your horse up. If your horse is uncontrollable or is thrashing about remember that your safely come firsts. You cannot help your horse if you are in need of medical attention too. Try to calm him down verbally. If a barn buddy or family member is present, it may be best to have them call your veterinarian so they can relay information while you continue to work with your horse.
During your initial assessment you will want to look for serious injuries. These would include: broken bones, puncture wounds, deep cuts, eye trauma, and heavy bleeding. All of these will require the immediate attention of a veterinarian.
If there is heavy bleeding, or bleeding that is squirting or pulsing out, you must stop this bleeding first. Wrap the bleeding wound with a pressure bandage. If the bandage becomes blood soaked DO NOT REMOVE IT. You do not want to release the pressure. Simply add more gauze on top of the bandage and wrap it with more vet wrap. If you cannot wrap a bandage around the wound you will have to hold the gauze in place with heavy pressure. Again, if the gauze becomes blood soaked do not remove it; add more gauze on top without relieving pressure.
Once you have controlled the bleeding; take your horse’s vital signs so they can be relayed to your veterinarian. You will need to take your horse’s pulse, respiratory rate, and temperature. You may also want to check your horse’s gums. The gums should be a healthy deep pink color. This will help the veterinarian determine the severity of your horse’s injury, how quickly they will need to respond, and aid them in helping you prior to their arrival.
Your horse’s pulse can be taken anywhere a major artery is close to the skin. The area easiest to read will be the artery just above the fetlock. Here you will get the strongest pulse just to the outside of the fetlock. It’s possible to palpate any artery on the inside and outside of the fetlock, but usually it’s so slight it would be very hard to feel it. In fact, when you feel a pulse in that area, it generally means there is inflammation in the foot. The best way to get a pulse is using a stethoscope which people can generally purchase at uniform stores or online, but aside from that, the facial artery is the most reliable location.You may also take the pulse by reaching up under the jaw and then pushing upward.
Using two or three fingers feel the artiry until you get a strong pulse. Do not use your thumb. Your thumb has a strong pulse of it’s own and you may get a mixed reading. Count the number of pulses in a 15 second period and then multiply by 4. An irregular, weak, or accelerated pulse can indicate that there is a problem with internal functions.
Finding and taking your horse’s pulse is the most difficult of the vital signs to take. We recommend you practice taking your horse’s vital signs before the need arises. Learning to take them during a crisis can be challenging at best.
A horse’s normal pulse rate:
- Newborn: 120 beats per minute
- Two Week Old Foal: 100 beats per minute
- Four Week Old Foal: 70 beats per minute
- Yearling: 45-60 beats per minute
- Two Year Old: 40-60 beats per minute
- Adult Horse: 30-40 beats per minute
Yes. You can put Visine drops in your horse’s eyes if they are irritated. If your horse’s red, itchy eyes persist we suggest contacting your primary veterinarian to rule out equine food allergy, infection, fungal infection, abscess, et cetera.
If this is a large wound and you need to stop or reduce the amount of bleeding before your veterinarian arrives try wrapping a pressure bandage around it, if the area lends itself to that. This is done by applying gauze over the wound and then wrapping it firmly with vet wrap. Should the bandage become blood soaked do not remove the vet wrap and gauze. Simply apply another layer over the existing pressure bandage.
If the wound is not in an area that can be wrapped use gauze and manually apply pressure. Again, if the gauze become blood soaked do not remove it. Apply additional gauze while continuing to hold pressure on the wound.