Horse Health

Treating Cuts and Tears

January 8, 2009

Know what actions to take if your horse gets hurt.

From our friends at eXtension

Wounds require immediate attention and first-aid treatment. The seriousness of a wound depends on the location, depth, type of cut or tear, amount of tissue damaged and type of tissue affected. Serious wounds should be treated by a veterinarian.

All cuts and tears should be cleaned thoroughly and all foreign debris removed. Apply nitrofurazone or an antiseptic ointment to the wound.

Wound Treatment

In treating your horse’s cuts and tears, follow six steps:

  1. Stop the bleeding. Blood from a cut artery spurts and is bright red. Venous blood is dull red and flows rather than spurts. Direct pressure is required for almost all cuts and tears. Pack gauze into large or deep wounds and apply pressure until the bleeding stops. Very seldom will a tourniquet be needed. Apply direct pressure on a wound with a gauze pad, using your hand or a tight bandage. If a tight bandage is used to stop the bleeding, it should be removed once the bleeding has stopped. A horse can lose up to 10 percent of its blood before the loss becomes critical. A 1,000-pound (454 kg) horse has about 50 quarts of blood. A horse can tolerate a slow blood loss, whereas rapid loss of blood can be critical.
  2. Clean the wound with warm water to remove all dirt and debris, preferably using a hose with running water. If water is not available, use a gauze pad to clean the wound. Press the gauze pad into the wound. Don’t rub or swab the wound because that will cause further tissue damage. Avoid using cotton because pieces of it will remain in the wound. The hair around the edges of the wound should be clipped or shaved.
  3. Immobilize the wound to prevent further damage. Hold the horse or place the horse in a box stall. Try to prevent the horse from chewing the wound or bandage. A neck cradle prevents chewing of most wounds. Cayenne pepper or hot pepper sauce applied to the bandage can discourage a horse from chewing. If the wound requires suturing, the veterinarian should do so within 12 to 24 hours for best results.
  4. Prevent infection. Antibiotics should be administered under the direction of a veterinarian. Wounds can be treated with a nonirritating wound dressing. Minor skin wounds can be treated with nitrofurazone.
  5. Protect the wound from dirt and other debris by applying a bandage. A bandage may decrease movement and promote faster healing of the wound. However, care must be taken when applying a bandage because if it is applied incorrectly, it can cause more damage than good.
  6. Prevent tetanus. If the horse has not been vaccinated against tetanus within the last eight to 12 months – or if you are unsure when its last tetanus vaccine was given – administer the tetanus antitoxin. Tetanus toxoid should be given every eight to 12 months.

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Unsafe Conditions for Horses

Try to avoid the following conditions that may cause injury to your horse.

From The Horse Industry Handbook: A Guide to Equine Care and Management

  • Barns, stalls, fences and gates too small or not properly designed for the horse.
  • Improper choice of building materials: poor-quality wood or metal, barbed wire, hog wire, etc.
  • Uncapped steel posts, sharp edges or corners on waterers and feeders, and protruding nails, bolts, etc.
  • Lack of or improper bedding, and facilities in poor repair.
  • Miscellaneous equipment stored in pastures or paddocks.
  • Keeping horses in overcrowded conditions.
  • Allowing aggressive horses in group conditions.
  • Lack of adequate group feeder space.
  • Use of wire to hang feeders, water buckets or waterers.
  • Improper tying of horses: undesirable tie posts, rails, knots, or tying too long or too low.

Buying a horse? Know what to look for with help from AQHA’s FREE American Quarter Horse Conformation Standards report. You’ll learn how to spot problems and how to find a horse that’s built for the job you want him to do.