Staying Healthy At Horse Shows: What Should Be In Your Horse First Aid Kit?

February 3rd, 2013 3:30 PM | No Comments

By Gabrielle Sasse,

Dr. C. Michael Kerns shares with us how to be ready for anything at horse shows

Any horseperson knows that Murphy’s Law is still in grand effect, and “what can go wrong, will go wrong.” This especially seems true for horse shows! Dr. Michael Kerns is a veterinarian who has been practicing for 32 years. He shares his thoughts on what is best to have in your first aid kit at horse shows, and what are some ways to prevent injury and combat this phenomenon.

Some of the most common injuries Dr. Kerns sees are “cuts, scrapes, bucket hook injuries, and nostril tears. Horses are very curious, and like to survey their new environment.” Sometimes that environment bites back! Go over your stalls very carefully before putting your horse in. Sometimes fairground stalls aren’t “horse-proof,” and may have nails sticking out for your inquisitive equine to find. Think about the flooring of your temporary home. Dr. Kerns suggest using mats, as horses aren’t used to standing on concrete or hard dirt and it can often be hard on their tendons. “Stretch and hand-walk often,” suggests the vet. “Use liniments prior to exercise. Horses often get hurt because their muscles aren’t loose, especially in the colder weather.”

“A horse First Aid kit is an essential part of your stable or travel equipment,” stresses Dr. Kerns. “You might need it to treat injuries, illnesses or emergencies. It should have its fixed place in your truck or trailer, in a sturdy plastic container. A good idea is to reassess the kit every six months to restock and to toss outdated medications and contaminated materials.” He reminds everyone to “contact your veterinarian in any emergency, illness or significant injury,” however. But, what you do at the scene can help your vet out tremendously when it comes time to treat the horse. Take your horse’s heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature and check the color of the gums. Know what your horse’s normal rates are for all of these, as sometimes they can vary from the norm.

 “A laminated list of contents is also a great idea to keep taped to the lid of the container,” says Dr. Kerns. “Keep a notebook and pen in the container to write things down as they are used, to make replacement easier. Whenever indicated, keep items in zip lock storage bags to keep them fresh and clean.”

Some great things to have:

  • A thermometer and some lubricant such as Vaseline or KY Jelly. (Spit works too in a pinch!). Use a digital one, it is easy to handle and read. Glass thermometers can break easily (Normal temp for an adult horse is between 99.5-101.5)
  • Compression bandages, such as vet wrap
  • Gauze squares  
  • Duct tape works well as a compression over gauze or in sealing up padding under a hoof. (Besides, if you can’t fix it with duct tape…)
  • Cotton Diapers- a great sterile bandage for those often hard to wrap places
  • An inexpensive stethoscope (normal rate for an adult horse is around 30-40 beats per minute)
  • Clean, sharp scissors
  • Tweezers-work great for human injuries as well!
  • 2-3 clean towels
  • Disposable rubber/latex gloves (works great for putting on hoof black too!)
  • Antiseptic spray, cream or solution (such as Betadine)
  • Sterile saline solution (you get 500ml or 1 L plastic-bags from your vet, then pour into smaller bottles)
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Zinc oxide cream
  • Iodine or coppertox for foot abscesses
  • Epsom salts
  • Absorbine rub for sore muscles
  • Mild liquid soaps (Dawn, Joy, Dove, etc.)
  • Electrolytes- paste and the kind you put in water
  • Ice packs for acute injuries (keep in freezer until needed)
  • Clean (does not need to be sterile) syringes (best sizes are 30ml or 60ml) to flush wounds
  • Hoof pick
  • An LED flashlight and replacement batteries
  • Twitch
  • A farrier’s rasp, hammer, nail puller/shoe puller

Keep careful records of how much and what kind of these medicines you give your horse! Good to have in your kit, but be sure you know the proper usage and doses.

  • Bute
  • Banamine
  • Acepromazine
  • Dormosedan or detomidine paste gel
  • Xylazine (Rompun)

Phone numbers for veterinarian, farrier, and insurance company should also be listed in your first aid kit, as well as on your stalls.

Although this may seem like a lot, you never know what your horse can get into! It is also good to have some of these items on hand for a human first aid kit. You may want to consider adding Aspirin or Tylenol, band-aids, or other such human first aid items.  We hope you rarely have to use your kit, but we probably all know otherwise!

Special thanks to Dr. Kerns for taking the time to share this list with us and, of course, his experience!


About Dr. Kerns

Dr. Kerns received his undergrad and veterinary degree from The Ohio State University. He has been practicing for 32 years, and has been teaching at The University of Findlay for 24 of them. “Dad was a vet, and I was always with him. They called me ‘Lil’ Doc’” says Kerns. His mother was a nurse, so medicine was in his blood. He has worked in Sugar Creek, OH with the Amish, and practiced around the Midwest, including areas of Indiana and Fort Recovery, OH. He came to Findlay in ’87 practicing small animal, and then moved on to large animal. He currently teaches equine medicine and other pre-vet courses to University students, as well as continuing to practice.

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