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Prepare for [almost] Anything

That-which-shall-not-be-said Rule

We learn through social cues that there are certain things you just don’t say and questions you just don’t ask. Like “taboo” topics at dinner, there is a list of phrases that never have a place at the table. This code of conduct was born out of superstition and irony, particularly in emergency situations. Breaking this unspoken rule is a punishable offense, earning the perpertrator anything from a glare to absolute discontempt.


The most grevious offenses are those commited on a Friday with an hour left on the clock, or at any emergency. Any mention of it being a quiet day on call willl surely be met with a hefty dose of animosity from co-workers. Point out that the work-day was slow, and 5 minutes later there will inevitably be an emergency flying through the front doors.

The Law of Impecable Timing

Along the same lines as the “jinxed” list, emergencies follow the law of impecable timing. If you want to guarantee you receive an emergency call, make any sort of plans. Schedule a haircut. See a movie. Tell a friend you’ll call them at 6. Schedule an oil change for the car. Set a 10pm bedtime. You can even think to yourself, ‘I’ll finish that load of laundry when I get home.’ That load of laundry will be mocking you six hours and two ERs later.

The law of impecable timing – it’s a thing.

The Art of Preparedness

I was on call last weekend, but made plans to meet friends for coffee at 9AM. And like clockwork, mid-order, I received an ER call at 9:04. The barista mouthed the words, “your usual?” She knew the deal.

The hysterical voice was difficult to understand, cutting in and out with fragments of sentences. I caught snipits as she recounted events: police siren, car honking, horse reared again, fence broke, bolting around, fence attached, cut up, blood, painful, shock, trembling, wounds, won’t put weight on the leg.

Monroe, a 7 year old paint gelding, had been tied to a fence. Spooked by the police sirens racing by, he reared back and broke off the part of the fence he was secured to. He bolted, the section of the fence chasing him through the paddock. I left the coffee shop, triaging with the owner over the phone. We were coming up with a plan she could put into action while I made the 30 minute drive to her house.

He was bleeding. No bandaging material.

He was pacing, unwilling to bear weight on one leg. No extra lead rope.

He was trembling. No banamine. No bute.

Only one laceration required stitches, and the remainder of the wounds were small, superficial cuts and abrasions. By the time I arrived, he was also willing to walk on the injured leg. After the initial assessment and treatment, there didn’t appear to be any life-threatening injuries and he was already looking more comfortable. As we were getting ready to depart, the owner approached my window. “Do you guys have an emergency kit or something that I can buy? I’ve never needed one up until now and I want to be prepared next time.”

The list I gave her sparked the idea for this post.

Equine Emergency First Aid Kits

You can spend a pretty penny buying ready-to-go kits. A quick google search will show you that kits range anywhere from $75 to $1,000. I put together a list of supplies that I would recommend for a fairly comprehensive emergency kit.

Most of the medications are prescritption and would require a vet to sign off on dispensing them. These are medications that I would be okay with clients having on hand, so long as they were routinely seen for annual exams (established doctor-patient relationship regulations).




  • Thermometer
  • Stethoscope
  • Headlamp
  • Spare Halter & Lead Rope
  • Gloves
  • Clippers
  • Hoof pick
  • 60ml dosing syringe


  • Bandage
  • Scissors
  • Non-Sterile Gauze – 4″x4″ Squares (1 package)
  • Elastic Adhesive Bandage (Elasticon®) 3″ (2 rolls)
  • Cohesive Bandage (Vetrap®) 4″ (2 rolls)
  • Non-Adhesive Wound Dressing (Telfa® pads)
  • Non-Sterile Gauze – 4″x4″ Squares (1 package)
  • Elastic Adhesive Bandage (Elasticon®) 3″ (2 rolls)
  • Cohesive Bandage (Vetrap®) 4″ (2 rolls)Non-Adhesive Wound
  • Dressing (Telfa® pads)
  • Rolled cotton
  • Brown gauze (2 rolls)
  • Baby diapers
  • Duct tape


  • Betadine® Solution (4 oz)
  • Chlorhexidine solution
  • Bottle of isopropyl alcohol (1/2 gallon)
  • Paper Towels (1 roll)
  • Chlorhexidine solution
  • Bottle of isopropyl alcohol (1/2 gallon)
  • Paper Towels (1 roll)
  • Sterile saline (1 liter)


  • Electrolytes (paste or powder)
  • SSD ointment
  • Bute
  • Banamine
  • Trimethoprim-Sulfa Tablets (SMZs)
  • Acepromazine tablets
  • Dormosedan gel
  • Mag60 paste



The other part of the emergency kit is the actual kit itself. I prefer to use hard-sided containers or carts, because bags and cloth can easily become wet/mold. Replacing everything in the kit because of a water leak, spills, manure etc.. would be quite costly. I don’t recommend cutting corners on whatever carrier you use. I’ve seen some barns buy surplus medical crash carts, stackable tool organizer kits from Home Depot etc…the nice thing is all the supplies can easily be moved by one person, vs. grabbing individual bags/boxes.

Other considerations …

On the subject of preparedness, I would recommend having “cheat sheets” or info-posters reviewing what constitutes an emergency and very brief info on what common horse emergencies are. A diagram of basic horse anatomy and vitals would also be helpful. Below are some examples of these materials.

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