We all know horses have an amazing ability to find new and fun ways to injure themselves and their humans. In this blog, I will briefly touch on the basic things to have on hand and the protocols to have in place for emergencies.
There are three common horse emergencies: Colic, Eyes and Legs
Let’s start with colic. Horses have been badly designed by Mother Nature so if you have horses long enough you will experience colic. The best way to deal with colics is to prevent them. A few quick pointers: any change to diet should happen over 5-7 days minimum, roughage and high quality concentrates will minimize digestive upsets and horses hate change so keep to a routine as much as possible. So you have done everything to prevent colic but come home one evening to find your horse unwilling to eat, rolling on the ground or just laying around. Step One is a basic assessment of your horse’s vital signs. Is your horse sweating a lot, breathing very rapidly or extremely restless? If so, call us immediately. These are signs of a more severe colic which requires attention quickly. If your horse is quietly laying down, breathing normally or just acting a little off start with a short, slow walk ideally near some good grass. A short walk, a small offer of something tasty like apples, carrots or treats or even a 2 minute lunge at a trot will often get these mild colics feeling much better. However, if your horse is not back to normal after 15-20 minutes please be sure to call Springhill Equine so the best course of action can be determined.
Our horses were blessed with the big beautiful eyes that sit on the sides of their heads where they can poke them on things. And leave it to horses to find plenty of things to poke them on. Eyes can quickly become infected with bacteria and fungus, especially in Florida. Eyelids need to be sutured as soon as possible for the most cosmetic outcome. A few things to look for: the eye itself should be very clear, any cloudiness is a definite sign of trouble, looking at your horse from the front both eyes should be open evenly and excessive drainage could be a sign of a blocked tear duct. If in doubt about an issue it is never a bad idea to place some plain antibiotic ointment (NOT the kind with steroids) in the affected eye and give your horse one gram of Bute. Once you have done this, call Springhill Equine and we will help decide if an emergency call is necessary or if the next day will be fine. Any cuts to the eyelid can be treated the same way but will require sutures within 3-4 hours.
From that random piece of barbwire they manage to find to the hole that wasn’t there this morning, horses are very good at putting their legs where they don’t belong. Quick leg guidelines: if a cut or puncture is near a joint call immediately, cold hosing any laceration will help remove dirt and debris and always have good bandaging material on hand just in case. The most common things we see are lacerations to the lower leg. Many of these are managed with lots of cold hosing, Vaseline or Neosporin and a good bandage. Sutures might be placed but most of the time we are trying to use the skin as a temporary bandage. Because horses have such a poor blood supply to the lower leg it is difficult to get sutured skin to stay happy for longer than 3-4 days. The most important thing to remember about legs is that even the smallest laceration can be devastating if it is near a joint so call us for help deciding if this is an emergency or can wait until morning.
A bit of planning ahead of time can make a big difference in how emergencies are handled. Sit down and make a plan for how much you will spend on each horse you have. We understand this may differ from horse to horse but thinking about it ahead of time makes decisions easier in crises. Explore insurance options now. There are a variety of ways and coverages available. But signing up for insurance when your horse is headed for colic surgery doesn’t work very well. Having all your horse’s health information and your wishes written down for any farm help or house sitters will make everything go smoother if you are unreachable for some reason.
We are pretty sure Murphy’s Law was written for horses