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Equine Emergency Planning

As a horse owner, sooner or later you are likely to face an emergency. Colic, lacerations, fractures, foaling difficulties, dummy babies are some emergencies that you may encounter.  You need to recognize serious problems and respond promptly but remain calm, taking appropriate action while awaiting the arrival of your veterinarian.

You need to be always prepared for an equine emergency at your farm, trip or in a show.

1.  Keep your veterinarian’s phone number, including how the practitioner can be reached after hours.
2.  Consult with your regular veterinarian regarding a back-up or referring veterinarian’s number in case you cannot reach your regular veterinarian quickly enough.
3.  Know in advance the most direct route to an equine surgery center in case you need to transport the horse.
4.  Post the names and phone numbers of nearby friends and neighbors who can assist you in an   emergency while you wait for the veterinarian.
5.  Prepare a first aid kit and store it in a clean, dry, readily accessible place. Have another kit prepared in your trailer. Make sure that family members and other barn users know where the kits are.

First aid kits can be simple or elaborate. Here is a short list of essential items:

Cotton roll
Cling wrap
Gauze pads, in assorted sizes
Sharp bandage scissors
Cup or container
Rectal thermometer with string and clip attached
Surgical scrub and antiseptic iodine solution
Latex gloves
Saline solution 1 or 2 liters
Battery powered Clippers
Duct tape
6 brown gauze bandages
2 rolls of Vetwrap
A tube of bute or Banamine paste
A tube of electrolytes paste
A tube of eye triple antibiotic ointment
Flash light

Many accidents can be prevented by taking the time to evaluate your horse’s environment and removing potential hazards.  Have paddocks clean of branches, nylon strings from bales, cover holes in the terrain, remove stones and barbed wire fences. Mentally rehearse your emergency action plan, for example if you are going for a trail ride in the forest, think about potential eye lacerations and limb injuries due to branches. For long trips during summer, think about heat stroke and fever. Talk to your veterinarian before an activity or travel to get advice.  In an emergency, time is critical.  Acting quickly, calmly and efficiently, you can minimize the consequences of an injury or illness.