Whether you’re a horse lover or a horse owner, you’ve likely heard the common phrase “it’s not a matter of IF a horse gets into trouble, it’s a matter of WHEN.”
Horse emergencies are a common occurrence, and we see them frequently in and out of the vet hospital. Naturally born with an instinctive ‘fight or flight’ response, the horse’s mechanism of reaction is due to its evolution as a prey animal. When horses feel frightened or startled, they will initially try to flee to increase the distance between themselves and the suspected predator. While this response is life-saving in many circumstances, it can also put a horse in a dangerous situation. A wire fence, a nail protruding from a board, or an exposed piece of tin from a shelter are a few common sources of injuries that we see in our equine patients. For this reason, it’s important for horse owners to ensure that all areas of a horse’s enclosure are evaluated for safety, and hazards are removed from the area.
Emergencies can include anything from lacerations and bone fractures, to colic and choking. Illness can also be cause for emergency and that’s why we routinely vaccinate against disease, and establish a deworming protocol in our horse herds.
Keeping an emergency plan in place will not only help you and your horse in an emergency situation, but will also help anyone else who uses the barn facilities, or looks after the animals while you’re away.
· Post your Veterinarian’s number, along with a secondary number in case your vet is unavailable for any reason
· Ensure your trailer is in good working order and ready to go, or have a trailer option available to you if you do not have one
· Prepare a first aid kit to keep at the barn, and a small one for transport in the trailer or truck
· Provide a phone list of neighbours, friends, or family that can be contacted to help in an emergency situation
In the event that an emergency arises, it’s important to keep calm, and if possible move your horse to a safe area to evaluate him. Always have another person with you when dealing with an injured animal, as they may have behavioural changes or stability concerns that are unexpected. Call your veterinarian right away, and avoid the use of medications unless your vet has advised to give them.
Whether you’re hauling the horse to a veterinary facility, or expecting the vet to arrive any minute, there are some very important steps that can be taken to keep your horse comfortable, and properly assess his condition. Being prepared and knowing what to do in an emergency can improve your horse’s recovery time, and possibly save his life!
Dr. Becky Bezugley has a knack for staying calm, cool, and collected in emergency situations, and she would like to pass these skills on to you! On July 22, 2017, The Animal Care Centre of Strathmore will be hosting a Client Education Seminar focusing on Equine First Aid to help prepare you for those unforeseen situations. Dr. Becky will be offering emergency bandaging techniques, how to assess and manage colic, what to do with a choking horse, how to stabilize a bone fracture, and much more!
Contact us at 403.901.1800 for more details on this event.
The Animal Care Centre of Strathmore
American Association of Equine Practitioners, Guidelines to Follow During Equine Emergencies, accessed June 29, 2017,
Anne Courouce-Malblanc, DVM, PhD, April 2012, Aim for Individualized Disease Prevention, World Equine Veterinary Association, accessed June 29, 2017,