Being Prepared for Horse Emergencies: A Comprehensive Guide for Horse Owners

Emergencies can happen at any time, and being prepared is crucial for horse owners. In addition to knowing how to respond during specific emergencies, it’s equally important to take proactive steps before, during, and after these situations. Here’s a comprehensive guide that not only covers what to do during horse emergencies but also prepares you for the unexpected.

1. Know Your Financial Possibilities

It is important to understand your budget constraints and be realistic about the financial resources you can allocate to emergency care for your horse.

Horse Insurance:
  • If you have horse insurance, make sure you confirm which steps you may need to take in the event of an emergency. Ensure you have the appropriate contact information in case emergent contact with your broker is required. Your insurance company can guide you on what is covered in the event of an emergency, and help navigate the process.
Separate Savings Account:
  • Some people may consider setting up a separate savings account specifically for emergency horse care. This can provide peace of mind and financial stability during challenging times.
Treatment Options vs. Prognosis:
  • Have open discussions with your veterinarian about treatment options and potential outcomes. Understanding the prognosis will help you make informed decisions that align with your horse’s best interests.

2. Be Prepared to Haul

It may be necessary to haul your horse into an equine hospital to receive emergency care. Here’s how you can prepare for a potential future haul-in:

  • Know how to safely transport your horse during an emergency
  • Ensure your trailer is in good condition
  • Practice loading and unloading regularly
  • Ensure your trailer plates are kept up to date

3. First Aid Kit

Create a well-stocked first aid kit that includes essentials like bandages, antiseptic, thermometer, and scissors. Your veterinarian can help you create a comprehensive first-aid kit. 

4. Facilities

Plan ahead for emergency situations by designating a safe and suitable area on your property where your horse can receive care, rest, or special attention if needed. You may need to be able to keep your horse in a small paddock or stall, separated from herd-mates. It is important to have a plan for this in all seasons. In addition, ensuring access to a warm, brightly lit, safe space for working in will ensure your horse receives the best possible care during an emergency. 

What to do During an Emergency

  1. Taking Vitals: Be prepared to assess your horse if it is safe to do so, and report your horse’s vital signs to your vet. This information can help your vet assess the severity of the situation.
  2. Communication with Your Vet: When you call your vet, be ready to answer questions about your horse’s condition. Providing accurate information helps the vet team prepare for their arrival or offer guidance over the phone.
  3. Additional Support:  In stressful moments, having a friend or loved one by your side can provide emotional support and be a calming presence when making critical decisions about your horse’s care.

What to do After an Emergency

  1. Monitoring: Follow your vet’s recommendations for monitoring your horse’s condition. This may involve tracking vitals, food and water intake, and fecal output as instructed. Your vet will want to follow up with you after the emergency, and it is important to know when you should call again for further care, if needed.
  2. Aftercare: Adhere to the specific aftercare instructions provided by your vet. These instructions are essential for your horse’s recovery and well-being.
  3. Rechecks: Your vet may recommend follow-up appointments to assess healing progress. Attend these rechecks as advised to ensure your horse’s continued recovery.
  4. Coping with Loss: If the emergency ends tragically, it’s important to remember that your vet cares deeply about your horse’s well-being and did their best to help. Properly dispose of remains as per local regulations and consider seeking support from a social worker or equine grief counsellor if needed.

We understand that equine emergencies can be emotionally challenging. Our clinic is here to support you through these difficult times, and we can provide resources to help you navigate challenging decisions associated with equine emergencies. Your horse’s well-being is our top priority, and we are here to assist you every step of the way.

General Guidelines for Specific Emergency Situations:

Colic

  • If your horse shows signs of severe pain, such as rolling, sweating, or pawing the ground.
  • If your horse does not eat and does not seem to be themselves
  • If colic symptoms persist for more than 30 minutes.
  • Remove all food.
  • Walk your horse if it is safe to do so
  • Monitor vital signs (pulse, respiration, temperature).
  • Keep your horse as quiet and stress-free as possible.

Wound

  • If the wound is deep, large, or near a joint, tendon, eye, or other vital structure
  • If there’s excessive bleeding
  • If your horse is lame, painful, or visibly distressed
  • Apply pressure to control bleeding
  • Clean the wound with mild antiseptic if possible
  • Cover the wound with a clean, sterile bandage
  • Keep your horse calm and confined

Fever

  • If your horse’s temperature exceeds 38.5°C
  • If your horse displays other concerning symptoms, such as lethargy or loss of appetite
  •  
  • Keep your horse in a cool, well-ventilated area
  • Offer water to prevent dehydration
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Do not administer medication without veterinary guidance
  •  

Broken Leg

  • Immediately if you suspect a broken leg
  • Do not attempt to splint or move the leg unless directed to do so by your vet.
  • Try to keep your horse calm and as still as possible to prevent further injury.
  • Provide water if your horse can drink safely.

Horse won't get up

    • Immediately if your horse cannot rise.
    • Ensure your horse is in a safe, comfortable position.
    • Provide warmth if your horse is stuck out in the winter.
    • Provide water if your horse can drink.

Conclusion

In all emergency situations, it’s crucial to stay as calm as possible, provide essential first aid care, and call your vet promptly. Remember, your veterinarian is your best resource for handling horse emergencies and ensuring the health and well-being of your equine companion. Be prepared, act swiftly, and always prioritize the safety and comfort of your horse.

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