There are 5 main types of minor wounds:
- Bruise. Kicks, knocks or blows cause bruises. The skin usually remains unbroken and sometimes there is swelling but not always. Pain levels tend to vary.
- Graze. The top layer of skin has usually been 'scraped' (much as with a human graze). These wounds don't bleed much but there could be foreign objects in the wound.
- Incision. This is a clean cut caused by something sharp eg: glass or a knife.
- Laceration. Is a tear wound which has rough edges. These are caused by barbed wire or thorns amongst other things.
This is a laceration which is starting to heal.
- Puncture. This type of wound is often difficult to find because the entry point is small. These wounds can be very deep and there can be a foreign body inside the wound which can cause infection.
Treating Minor Wounds
- Identify the wound and assess the damage. For many minor wounds it will not be necessary to call the vet. Although, you should ensure the horse is up to date with his Tetanus vaccinations.
- If the wound is bleeding you will need to apply some pressure to stop it. Apply pressure directly on the wound, bearing in mind it may be sore. If there is a large object in the wound apply pressure above the wound. Use something sterile ideally but if nothing else is available a piece of cloth will do. If the bleeding is profuse or pulsing the vet SHOULD be called.
- Clean the wound. This can ideally be done with a hose. Using low pressure and directing the water above the wound to wash the wound. It is a good idea to get your horse used to the water by directing it onto the hoof first and slowly moving it up the leg. Hosing for 10 - 20 minutes will also help reduce inflammation. If it is not possible to hose the wound use cotton wool and boiled salt water which has cooled. Each piece of cotton wool should only be used for one 'wipe' and you should work from the outside in. Be gentle and make sure you have removed all foreign bodies from the wound.
- For small wounds or bruises it is better to then leave the wound open as this will speed up the healing process. Similarly if you have called the vet leave the wound open so that they can inspect it fully and stitch if necessary. For some wounds it will be necessary to dress them to keep them clean. This can be something as simple as a covering with a non-adhesive dressing and bandaging in place.
Nursing a Sick Horse
Unfortunately there are occasions when a horse has to be confined to his box to aid recovery. This is often due to injury which means the horse's movement needs to be limited. This is obviously not a natural state for a horse and so everything must be done to ease the situation and stress it is likely to cause.
- A clean environment; bedding should be clean and deep. The type of bedding should also be considered as shavings and other woodchip beddings can become stuck to wounds, straw can get caught around a horses legs if they are unable to lift their legs high. Make sure the bed is deep and comfortable to reduce the strain on limbs and take it all the way to the door. Box rested horses often spend more time standing by the door looking out!
- Ventilation; the stable should be well ventilated but the horse should not be in a draught as this will not help their recovery.
- Feed little and often; clear any uneaten forage away but do not leave a stabled horse without food for more than a couple of hours. Putting hay in a haylage net will slow their eating. Alternatively you may want to spread the hay around to encourage a little movement - be warned that this will make for a very messy stable! Pick some grass and feed some succulents (eg: carrots). If the horse was in hard work and being fed a high concentrate feed then it will be necessary to cut the concentrate and increase bulk to avoid any problems.
- Access to clean fresh water; make sure the water bucket is kept topped up. Empty, scrub and refill once a day. If the horse has an automatic waterer in the stable you may wish to tie this up and use a bucket so that you can monitor his drinking whilst he is unwell.
- Keep the horse warm; ensure he is warm but not hot. Using an appropriate weight rug for the temperature and horse. Feel the base of his ears to test if he is warm enough. Stable bandages may be necessary to help keep him warm.
- Peace and quiet; the horse will also need to have plenty of time to rest and sleep to allow his body to recover.
- Grooming; may need to be reduced to a quick brush and wipe of the eyes, nose and dock. A horse feeling under the weather is likely to resent a long grooming session.
- Walk in hand; if the vet has agreed (and you can do it safely) take the horse for a walk in hand and graze. This will allow him some fresh air and a leg stretch. However, some horses can become over excited by this so a bridle may be needed for more control.
- You may need to feed a calming supplement if the horse is the type to get stressed, there are many natural ones available now.
- Providing toys or treats hung from the ceiling (eg: a swede) will provide some stimulation and keep the horse occupied.
- Follow the vet's instructions and keep records of the horse's progress and medication.
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Until next time!