Treating Minor Horse Wounds – the Essentials
By Sean Whiting
Minor injuries occur far too commonly in every horse’s life, so Sean Whiting, Director of specialist country and equestrian store Houghton Country, offers his advice for treating small bumps and scrapes.
Your horse is strong, powerful, and dependable, which is why we sometimes forget how easily they can get hurt. When you’re out and about, scrapes from trees, bushes, rocks or even altercations with other horses can easily occur and, while these grazes may look small and harmless, they could be causing your horse pain. They could even lead to more serious problems in the future, such as infections or diseases, so it’s important that every horse owner knows how to treat common wounds.
When it comes to major injuries, treating them at home can sometimes make things worse and you may not always be able to tell if there are underlying problems that need to be addressed. Serious injuries should always be treated by a vet and you should always seek their advice if you’re not sure whether your horse’s injury is major or minor, or if it doesn’t seem to be healing as you would expect it to.
With that in mind, not every surface cut, graze, or scrape needs to undergo costly medical attention. Plus, it’s not always possible to get to a specialist straight away if you’re out in the middle of the countryside. So, here are my tips for treating minor horse wounds to prevent them from getting worse.
Understand how horses heal and when to call the vet
While minor injuries are unfortunately extremely common, regardless of how well looked after your horse may be, the way horses heal from injuries is surprisingly complicated.
Hip and shoulder wounds can often look more serious but due to the number of joints and tendons in a horse’s leg and the amount of movement they endure, these kinds of scrapes are much more threatening to their chances of recovery. Unless you’re confident that it is only a small scrape, leg injuries should always be checked over by your vet.
“Proud flesh” is another risk that horses face as the result of an injury. Also known as exuberant granulation tissue, proud flesh is the permanent inflammation of tissue and blood vessels that causes cauliflower-like lumps to protrude from the broken skin. Proud flesh can sometimes be caused by over-treating wounds, preventing the skin from healing itself, so even with the best intentions, we could be making scrapes worse if we don’t deal with them correctly.
Have the right creams, ointments, and salves in your kit
As soon as you spot an injury, whether on the road or in the paddock, it’s important to wash the broken skin to get rid of germs, dirt, and dead tissue. Saline solution is a good way to rinse a wound as it doesn’t interfere too much with your horse’s natural healing process, so keep some in your travel first aid kit. Otherwise, stick to cool water from your hosepipe rather than warm water, as that can help with inflammation.
Keep a few soothing creams, anti-bacterial ointments, and itching salves in your kit for each stage of the healing process but always make sure the product is intended for horses so the wound can heal properly. Buying from a proper equestrian provider can help ensure you’re getting the right products that will help rather than hinder your horse’s healing.
Know which dressings to use and when to use them
If the wound is below the elbow, it’s important to dress it after cleaning and treating the injury to prevent infection. There are a few different types of bandage available that can help stop cuts, scrapes, and grazes from getting worse: for example, self-adhesive wraps can be very useful when it comes to leg injuries as these are less likely to unravel. Poultices, a type of chemically treated padded bandage, are perfect for protecting wounded soles and hooves from dirt and further injury, especially if you purchase a specialist hoof poultice, and they can be cut to size if need be.
Minor cuts and scrapes above the elbow, such as upper limb, body, and head grazes, don’t always need to be bandaged and usually heal on their own after they have been cleaned. However, in summer months it is very important to keep flies away from broken skin as they can inhibit the healing process and cause infection, so apply a wound powder or ‘seal to heal’ spray to keep flies out of the wound. Fly repellent can also be helpful, but only apply it around the injured area and not directly on it as this can cause irritation.
Remember, if in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact your vet for assistance. Deep cuts and gashes heal better if they are stitched while still fresh, so it’s better to get a second opinion as soon as possible.
With the tips in this guide, you can be confident that you will know what to do if your horse does suffer from a minor injury. Remember that the correct treatment depends on where on the body the wound located, and professional help should be sought if you have any concerns.