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First Aid for Horses!

Published: 3/16/2011
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

It might not be good for business, but the vets of Maine Equine Associates gave scores of horse owners valuable lessons in equine first aid at the clinic held recently at the MSSPA barn in Windham.

Why bad for business?

All that knowledge gained could save us from making that dreaded, wallet-draining emergency call.

Horse owners, providers, and animal control officers all took part in the hands-on sessions. Participants learned what to look for in a colic, how to take heart rate (with stethoscope), digital pulse, respiration and temperature.
They learned how to assess a horse, how to bandage a leg wound, how to make some judgment calls, and report that vital information to a veterinarian.
PHOTOS at right, top to bottom:

Why are taking vitals important?

Horses don’t spell things out. Whether it’s a colic or a hoof abscess, what ails them can initially elude us. We rely on keen observations to draw conclusions. The better the observations, the quicker and more accurately, we can help.

Some highlights:

-- If a horse seems to be in distress, his heart rate can be an excellent pain level indicator.

-- If a horse is colicking, his breath will often stink.

-- The Walk-a-Colicky-Horse rule often doesn't apply. Don’t worry too much if a horse is lying down. Just don’t let him twist and thrash.

-- Symmetry is important in assessing lameness. Don’t just take the digital pulse of one foot. Take all four for comparison.

-- If you suspect an abscess, use ONE finger and run it along the Coronet band of the hoof (also the hair line). Press and check for your horse’s reaction to the pressure. Then smell your finger. Often you won’t see a tiny droplet of discharge, but you sure will smell it!

-- Your horse won’t bleed to death.
Dr. Jefferson offered this nugget when discussing lacerations. He said a horse can bleed a lot. Owners can freak out.
“Rachel and I were laughing the other day,” he said. “When we first got out of school, we used to stitch up everything.” Now, he knows sutures aren’t always necessary. Sometimes, they can be more trouble than they’re worth.

Before you dial the vet, have to following information: temperature, respiration, heart rate, membrane color, gut sounds, whether the horse is drinking, eating, and pooping.

Dr. Flaherty told us the most important drug to have for emergencies is Banamine. Maine Equine Associates sells an equine first aid kit for $159.
For more on First Aid Must Haves and more on the MEA kit, CLICK HERE.

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3/17/2011 Christine
I only have one regret and that is I missed the clinic and really would have loved to have been there. Awesome info to have proper instuction with.

"A canter is the cure for every evil" - Benjamin Disraeli, The Young Duke