First Aid

Emergency Preparedness

Always have a veterinarian’s phone number available in your first aid kit or posted on the wall of the barn.

Monitor your Horse for Signs of Illness

Lethargy or Appearing Depressed
Rectal Temperature over 101.5 ° F
Laying Down more Frequently
Horse Standing Separated from the Herd
Purple or Red Mucous Membrane (gum) color
Holding Its Eye Closed
Acute Lameness

Normal Vital Parameters for a Horse

Rectal Temperature: 99-101.5 ° F
Heart Rate/Pulse: 24-40 beats per minute
Respiration Rate: 12-20 breaths per minute 


Colic is a broad term to describe abdominal pain. This can be caused by a number of reasons, but regardless of the reason it should always be considered an emergency.

Common Signs of Colic:
Pawing at the ground
Biting or looking at side
Kicking at belly
Laying down and getting up repeatedly
Labored breathing
Standing stretched out as if to urinate for a prolonged period of time

Call a veterinarian immediately if you suspect your horse may be colicking.

Questions you should be able to answer if you suspect your horse is colicking:

How long has the horse been showing signs of colic?
What signs/symptoms have been observed?
Have any medications been administered in the past 48 hours?
What does the horse’s manure look like?
What is the horse’s normal diet?
Has the diet changed recently?
When was the last oral de-worming product administered?
Has the horse had a history of colic episodes?
Are any of the other horses showing signs of colic?

If possible, it is helpful to report basic exam findings to a veterinarian such as mucous membrane (gum) color, capillary refill time, heart rate, respiration rate, and presence of gut sounds.


Questions a veterinarian may ask if you observe lameness:

Which limb(s) appear to be affected?
When was the lameness first observed?
Has the horse received any medication in the past 48 hours?
Does there appear to be any heat associated with the feet?
Is there any swelling observed?
Has there been any change in the horse’s routine including diet, training, terrain in which the horse has been ridden or in their paddock/pasture?


Questions a veterinarian may ask if your horse receives a laceration:

Where are the location(s) of the laceration(s)?
What is the approximate length of the laceration?
Do any of the lacerations and/or puncture wounds appear to be over a joint or tendon?
When did the laceration occur?
Is there drainage from the laceration site? Excessive bleeding?
When did your horse receive a vaccination against tetanus?

If the wound appears contaminated with dirt and debris you may clean it with lukewarm water prior to arrival of the veterinarian. We recommend not using ointments or powders in a wound if you plan to have the wound sutured as it is difficult to remove these products from the wound prior to closure.

We recommend having a first aid kit available at all times. If excessive bleeding is observed apply a clean bandage over the wound and call your veterinarian immediately. If the bleeding is occurring at a site of the body that cannot be bandaged apply pressure with clean gauze or a clean towel until the veterinarian arrives.

Eye Injuries

Eye injuries should always be considered an emergency.

Signs Indicating a problem with the eye include:

Swelling of or around the eyelids
Laceration of the eyelid
Holding the eye closed or squinting
Cloudy appearance of the eye
Foreign object lodged in the eye
Increased tear production and/or discharge from the eye

Do not try to remove foreign objects from the eye. Please call your veterinarian immediately if you observe any abnormalities associated with the eyes. Do not apply topical medication to the eye without consulting a veterinarian.


Signs of Choke Include:

Coughing and Retching
Excessive Salivation
Feed material present in nostrils
Extending the neck

If you observe signs of choke call your veterinarian immediately. While waiting for the veterinarian to arrive remove all food and water from your horse’s reach. Take your horse to a quiet place and try to keep their head down to prevent aspiration of feed material. Do not try to remove objects from the oral cavity or attempt to rinse the oral cavity without explicit instructions from a veterinarian.

First Aid Kit

Hoof Pick
Surgical Soap
Antiseptic Solution
Latex Gloves
Spare Batteries
Gauze Pads
Pillow Wrap
Stable Bandage/Adhesive Wrap
Bandage Scissors (blunt end on one side)
Duct Tape
Thumb Forceps

Antiseptic Solution

Never use concentrated Chlorohexidine or Betadine solution on a wound.

Betadine Solution: Dilute to 0.1- 1% solution (1-10 mls of betadine solution to 1000 ml of water/saline) which is a weak iced tea color.

Chlorohexidine Solution: Dilute to 1:40. This equates to approximately 6 ml per 250 mls or a light sky blue color.