Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

When it all goes wrong...

We all love riding and caring for our horses and thankfully mishaps are few and far between, but riding and being involved with horses, is a risk sport and accidents can and do happen. Its easy to be complacent, and think that a serious accident will never happen to you or your horse but what if it does? Are you prepared? Do you know how to treat a cut on your horse? Do you know what to do if someone falls off whilst on a hack? PLAN! Knowing what to do in an emergency and having a plan of action already set up can mean you are less likely to panic. There are many organisations around that run First Aid courses, and attending one of these will give you all the knowledge you need to cope in any emergency situation. The BHS run Equine Specific First Aid courses, which are designed to deal specifically with the sort of injuries you are likely to encounter when dealing with horses and riders. Any first aid course you attend will always tell you the first priority is to assess and minimise any risks. When an accident involves horses you always need to be sure that more complications aren't going to arise from a loose horse, so ensure that someone immediately gains control of it to prevent further accident or injury. PREPARE! A human first aid kit's contents depend on how many people you need to cater for and where you are keeping it, but always make sure you keep supplies regularly checked and topped up. If you know where your first aid kit is, and how to contact the required emergency services you are far more likely to be of valuable assistance to those in need. Having a first aid kit will mean you know where all your medical equipment is and you won't have to run round looking for things in the event of an accident. You may decide to have separate kits for horses and humans or just one kit that has supplies for both (first aid equipment does tend to lend itself to man or beast!) A basic equine first aid kit should include the following
  1. Vet's telephone number
  2. Cotton wool
  3. Antiseptic solution eg Hibiscrub
  4. Sterile non adherent dressings
  5. Bandages
  6. Scissors
It is advisable to also keep a clean bucket that is only used for cleaning wounds so you can avoid the risk of infection and contamination. SEEK MEDICAL ASSISTANCE Whilst most falls and accidents around horses incur only minor injuries, it is important to remember that a horse is a very large, powerful animal and any kick or fall can be serious. If you feel at all unwell after an accident it is always advisable to gain professional, medical advice. If a horse is injured, it is important that you know how to treat the injury.  Try to gain assistance so you have someone to hold the horse whilst you assess and treat the injury. Even the most placid horse can react violently when in pain which could result in injury to those around. Initially assess the wound and contact your vet for advice if you are at all unsure. Advice can often be given by them over the phone once initial information has been provided. Veterinary assistance is essential if:
  1. there is no one on scene with sufficient knowledge to assess the wound or injury
  2. there is excessive bleeding
  3. the wound is more than skin deep or more than a few cms long
  4. the injury is close to joints
  5. the wound is very dirty
  6. the horse is not vaccinated against tetanus 
If you do not feel that veterinary attention is required, or whilst you are waiting for him to arrive you can clean the wound using clean water or a very dilute solution of Hibiscrub (approx 1:20), cover the wound with a clean non absorbent dressing, cover the wound with a firm bandage which isn't so tight as to restrict circulation. When applying bandages ensure that this is done over padding and the pressure is even throughout, there must be no wrinkles in the bandage and all fastenings should be at the same tension as the bandage itself. Take care not to position the fastening over the injury itself. AND LAST BUT DEFINITELY NOT LEAST! There are many ways to limit the risk to you and those around you whilst dealing with horses. Always stay responsive to potential dangers, don't leave a horse unattended on the yard even when tied up, accidents happen in an instant.  Don't leave any avoidable hazards on the yard, ie pichforks, wheelbarrows, empty bags. Remember to always wear a current standard hat whilst riding or handling horses and a body protector, if appropriate, as these can help reduce injury in the event of an accident. Most importantly, treat all horses, no matter how quiet or how well you know them, with respect, as they can ALWAYS take you by surprise. Even the smallest shetland pony is stronger than any man.

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