Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Preparedness

Everyone who owns a horse may at some time face an emergency situation with the horse.  This can range from a minor scrape to severe colic or bleeding situations.  There are some basic organizational steps and materials that will aid you in most types of these situations.

As with Scouting, “Be Prepared”.  Have a plan that you understand and if possible “walk through it” prior to really needing it.  To recognize abnormal, one must first know the normal resting temperature, pulse, and respiration for your horse(s) and how/where to measure them.

  • Normal Equine Vitals
    • Temperature: 99.5-101.5 F° (consider ambient temperature as well; did the horse just finish working)
    • Respiration: 10-16/minute
    • Pulse: 24-52 beats per minute
    • Capillary refill time: <2 seconds

When faced with an emergency with your horse remember:

  • Safety first for you and the horse.
  • Stay calm, assess the problem and formulate steps required to handle the issue(s).
  • Be alert, notice and record as much information as possible as to what is happening, i.e. get the complete picture.
  • Get help
  • Call your veterinarian. Their advice over the phone can be invaluable.

Let’s take each step and discuss in more detail.

Be Prepared:

  • Have an up to date First Aid kit and know where it is and how/when to use each item. (Work with your Veterinarian for other suggestions/recommendations.)  Keep it up to date.  I suggest keeping one in the barn/stable and one in the trailer(s).
    • Veterinary rectal thermometer
    • Water based lubricant, e.g. KY Jelly
    • Stethoscope
    • 1-2 large bath towels
    • Antimicrobial cleanser
    • Hydrogen peroxide
    • Wound salve
    • Saline solution
    • Alcohol
    • Electrolyte paste
    • Disposable diapers or wrapped sanitary napkins (stop bleeding), diapers can also be put on the feet if laminitic episode occurs.
    • Rolled gauze
    • Sterile gauze pads; e.g. Telfa non-stick pads
    • Cotton rolls
    • Bandage scissors
    • Padded standing wraps
    • Polo wraps
    • Bute (paste)
    • Banamine (paste)
    • Epsom salt
    • Poultice
    • Liniment
    • Syringes (w/o needles) for flushing wounds
    • Vetrap or another self-adhesive bandage
    • Duct tape
    • Cotton swabs
    • Latex gloves
    • Wire cutters
    • Pocket knife or multi-purpose tool, e.g. Leatherman
    • Twitch
    • Ice pack(s)
    • Printed reference sheets
  • Phone numbers (posted in barn, trailer, cell phone, etc.)
    • Veterinarian
    • Owner/manager
    • Insurance agent/company
  • Be able to identify emergency situations
    • Colic
    • Choke
    • Diarrhea in mature horses
    • Eye injuries
    • Lacerations/severe bleeding
    • Fractures or other non-weight bearing lameness
    • Laminitis (have a “kit” to address early signs)
    • Tying-up, unable to move
    • Fever (>103F°)
  • Have a plan
    • Record (Write down)
      • Vital signs
      • What you see
      • When/how it began
      • Treatment provided
      • Last time: ate, pooped, urinated, drank

If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with wrapping legs, feet, etc., or determining respiration or pulse, it is best to practice before an emergency occurs.  Get instruction from your Veterinarian or other competent individuals.  Performing even routine procedures are sometimes very difficult under emergency situations.

Hopefully most horse owners will not face many life-threatening situations with their horses; proper planning and training along with having the right materials close at hand will minimize the added stress these types of situations can cause.


Emergency Kit (keep one in barn and one in trailer)


Bandage scissors & quick read thermometer


Ice wraps for laminitic episodes, also keep block ice for foot bath