Week 6: Medic!!

The first thing that comes to mind when you talk about first aid in the back country, or for that matter just out for a day ride on your favorite trail, is...Helicopters!!! Whoa!!! Hold on, the chance of needing a chopper ride to the hospital, is well, statistically just not going to happen.  I’m not saying don’t be prepared for the worse case scenario, but lets look at the everyday things that happen on the trail that you can fix and make better.  Since the weather isn’t getting any better, and you are still stuck indoors, now would be a great time to go through our first aid kits. Organize, and update them, or for that matter put one together, in the chance we need to use one this riding season. We all should be carrying a first aid kit of some sort with us. Plus, we need to be able to use all that’s in that kit, otherwise why pack it along?  I use to belong to a Back Country Horsemen chapter that had a club first aid kit. This kit was put together by a retired veterinarian. It had everything in it! I mean everything…In fact it had so much stuff in it, it never got taken out on the trail because of its size and weight. What good was it, just being left behind in storage? I brought it home one day and went through it. All the meds had expired, froze, or leaked out ruining everything else that it came in contact with.  As I went through this massive kit trying to salvage as much as I could, I made two piles. The first was everything that I knew what it was and how to use and the second, everything I had no clue what it was, or if I did, I had no clue how to use it.  This is what I used as the starter list for my own first aid kit. You’ll quickly notice that a lot of the items are duplicates to what you already carry in your human first aid kit, why pack twice as much? Condense. Horse first aid just isn’t about cuts and tears it could be about internal issues, for example colic, or it could be about a rock hung in a shoe. Do you have the tools to fix that? A gall from your cinch, rope burns etc. etc etc. the list is never ending possibilities.  Now’s the time to get ready we only have a couple more weeks till spring.

Another issue that is never really talked about when dealing with first aid is your riding partners… Do they have any health issues you should know about? ASK!!! And, ask what you may need to know to treat them. Diabetes, heart issues, and allergic to bees are just the tip of the iceberg. If they have a health issue, they’ll know how to treat it if an issue arises, ask them before they can’t tell you, or you could be back to that chopper issue … Get ready we are getting closer, In fact it has stopped snowing here and the sun is out, still below zero but the sun is out and did I say it stopped snowing…Come on SPRING!!!!

See you on the trail


PS- Comment with your first aid kit essential items that may be regional to the terrain you ride in. We will publish a list and photos of ours later this week. We would love to include some of the items you take with you in our master list that maybe don’t pertain to where we ride.

Comment on this post (4 comments)

  • Mitch Oviatt says...

    Hey, Mark. First of all, I just wanted to be clear that I didn’t post my equine first aid kit to undermine Andy’s blog in any way. I think Andy’s kit recommendations are great! The most important thing when assembling any kind of equine first aid kit is to know how to use each and every item in the kit effectively. I wasn’t sure if you were talking to me or to Andy, so if you’d like me to send you a picture of my kit, shoot me an email me at mitchoviatt@yahoo.ca and I’ll show you what I typically take. If you were asking to see Andy’s kit, he put it up on his follow-up blog post….
    Dr. Mitch Oviatt, DVM

    March 12, 2019

  • Mark says...

    Good info. Could you send a picture of your kit? Thanks Mark

    March 11, 2019

  • Mark says...

    Good info. Could you send a picture of your kit? Thanks Mark

    March 11, 2019

  • Mitchel Oviatt says...

    That’s a great reminder, Andy! One of the toughest things for me as a veterinarian when it comes to equine medical emergencies in the backcountry is avoiding bringing “everything but the kitchen sink!” It’s so easy to start thinking like a vet with a lengthy list of “but what if ______ happens?” Over the years, both my vet truck inventory and my backcountry first aid kit have gotten leaner and leaner, but still have the essentials for the most likely emergencies covered. While it certainly depends somewhat on the length of the trip, most of the time I can get everything I need in a Ziploc freezer bag with some room to spare. I typically bring:

    1) A 10-12 cc dose of injectable flunixin (Banamine) in a glass testube wrapped carefully with electrical tape to give it a little extra protection. I ALWAYS GIVE INJECTABLE FLUNIXIN INTRAVENOUSLY and if a client is uncomfortable with giving an IV injection, they can always give it orally in a pinch. Although the label mentions for IV or IM injection, NEVER GIVE FLUNIXIN IM IF HUMANLY POSSIBLE—it causes muscle necrosis and can lead to scarring, abscess formation, or Clostridial myositis—which is nasty and could be life-threatening!

    2) A 10 cc dose of antihistamine to administer IM. This is also in a test tube wrapped completely in electrical tape. Anything that comes in a dark brown bottle usually indicates that it is light-sensitive. Therefor, the test tube needs to be wrapped completely in dark electrical tape.

    3) 2 or 3 8″ × 10″ abdominal pads

    4) 1-2 rolls of 4" vetrap

    5) 1 roll of 3" Lightplast Pro (it’s like sticky vetrap and is much better than Elastoplast for sticking and contouring around a bandaged leg)

    6) A small bottle of liquid chlorhexidine surgical scrub

    7) A smaller ziploc bag with some 4′ × 4″ gauze that can be used to scrub a wound out or can act as additional absorbency for bleeding wounds.

    8) A “ring twitch” made out of a packer’s ring and some small diameter rope/cord. These are way safer to the user than a humane twitch or long-handled twitch that not only take up more space but are also more dangerous if the horse yanks it out of your hand and starts swinging his head around!

    9) A 12 cc syringe

    10) A couple of 20 G x 1.5" needles and a couple of 18 G x 1.5" needles

    11) A couple of #22 scalpel blades. Although they aren’t as safe as bandage scissors, a scalpel blade is an awesome way to take off a leg bandage. I pull the vetrap or lightplast pro away slightly from the leg to create a little more tension and then gently fillet the bandage open.

    With these basic items, anyone can treat most bleeding leg wounds, clean up a cinch sore, treat hives or swellings from stings or other allergens, and also provide relief from muscle and mild to moderate colic pain. It’s certainly worth asking your vet to teach you how to properly give your own horse a jugular vein injection. You can practice and have a refresher every year or two (once you have learned the proper technique) on one of your own horse with some sterile saline. I’ve taught several interested clients how to do this over the years, and there is some major peace of mind when they’re hauling or are deep in the backcountry where they don’t have access to a veterinarian.

    If you’d like, I can send you a picture of my kit and especially the twitch. I had a retired vet show me that twitch when I was a vet student and I made and used my own ever since. It works so well! Spring is coming…it won’t be too long now!

    Happy trails!
    Dr. Mitch Oviatt, D.V.M.

    March 06, 2019

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