Here’s what to pack in your on-trail first-aid kit, and how to use each item.
Review this list with your veterinarian for more information on how to provide on-trail first-aid and to see whether he or she has any further suggestions.
[ ] First-aid saddlebag. Designate a saddlebag exclusively for first-aid items. Choose one designed to fit over the saddlehorn or attach on a front D- ring. Items kept in front of the saddle helps your horse better balance the weight, and you’ll have easy access to your first-aid items during your ride. Tip: Find or make a first-aid emblem to iron on your designated saddlebag, for visibility.
[ ] Multipurpose tool. A good multipurpose tool can help you cut through wire or leather, pull splinters, act as a hoofpick in a pinch, cut bandages ? and even saw through small timber. Splurge on a medium to large tool made by a reputable company. Find one with at least a knife, a file, and pliers.
[ ] Emergency Blanket. A lightweight, reflective emergency blanket uses your own body heat to help keep you warm if you’re stranded on the trail, exposed to cold water, or suffer an injury resulting in shock. Most models roll up to the size of your fist.
[ ] Flashlight. A flashlight can help you find your way in the dark or find tools you need as the light fades. It can also help you see to analyze wounds. Consider a flashlight with a windup, rechargeable battery so you don’t have to pack extra power.
[ ] Duct tape. This all-purpose tape can help you keep a horse or human’s bandage in place, tape on a loose shoe, or help pack a hoof to help your horse get back to the trailer. You can also repair tack in a pinch.
[ ] Baling twine. Your use-around-the- barn baling twine is also useful on the trail. Tie up a broken headstall, reattach a rein, etc. If you lack a lead rope, you can even use a long piece to help pony another horse if a rider is injured.
[ ] Hoof boots. If you don’t outfit your horse in boots on every trail ride, make sure you have a pair in your pack in case of a thrown shoe or hoof injury. The boot will protect the hoof, hold bandaging material in place, and keep your horse’s injury clean on the way home.
[ ] Digital thermometers. Monitor a sick or injured horse, or take a rider’s temperature to check for overheating, fever, or shock. Invest in two, and label separately for horse and rider. Make sure that the thermometers go to 107 degrees Fahrenheit to accommodate horses’ higher temperatures. Normal human temperature is 98.6 degrees F; normal equine temperature is 98 to 100 degrees F.
[ ] Hoofpick. This handy grooming tool helps you pick out your horse’s hooves if he’s trapped pain-causing rocks. It can also help you pry open food cans in a pinch. Choose a sturdy hoofpick that doesn’t bend easily.
[ ] Large freezer bags. Choose reseal- able bags so you can pack out waste easily. Clean bags also work to haul water, serve as a bucket to soak your horse’s feet, help dress wounds, etc.
[ ] Veterinary bandage/wrap. A roll of the stretchy, sticky wrap helps keep horse and human bandages in place. Place over gauze squares or diapers to help keep open wounds clean and bound with pressure to help stop bleeding.
[ ] Tongue depressors. You can find these at discount stores sold as craft sticks. The wooden sticks will give you a clean way to apply ointment to a wound. They can also be used to splint a rider’s finger. (Use with vet wrap or clean hand towels and/or duct tape.)
[ ] Four-inch gauze squares. Pre-cut squares of four-by-four-inch gauze come in sterilized and nonsterilized packages. Opt for a pack of both. These bandages can hold antibiotic ointment against a wound and allow some airflow. They can also act as padding under other wraps and to apply medication. Gauze squares are sometimes sold in a hiker’s first-aid kit that includes a small pair of scissors.
[ ] Diapers. Diapers keep antibiotic salve against a wound and can help stop bleeding for horse or human. They are especially handy for cuts on a horse’s leg. They also can be used as temporary foot padding to help a horse that’s lost a shoe or suffers a hoof injury. Secure with vet wrap or duct tape.
[ ] Hand towels. A clean towel wipes off sweat and can wrap a larger wound. It can also serve as a temporary human arm splint. And if you’re near fire, a wet towel can help protect your nasal passages. A wet towel can also cool an overheated human or horse. Send your clean-but-older bathroom hand towels to your kit.
[ ] Wet wipes. Clean a small wound or wash up before and after giving first-aid with wet wipes. Store them in a plastic bag with a zipper so they don’t dry out.
[ ] Benadryl (diphenhydramine). This over-the-counter medication is great to have with you in case of horse or human allergic reactions (bee stings, etc.). For humans, liquid forms can act quickly. Ask your veterinarian about when and how much to give to your horse.
[ ] Insect repellent. Keep repellent on hand in case you trek through infested areas or are out at dusk during mosquito season. Opt for a natural brand, unless you ride in the deep woods.
[ ] Saline/contact lens solution. Saline solution is useful to flush out eyes (human and horse’s) after being poked or if debris is present. It can also be used to flush a wound.
[ ] Betadine. Commonly sold as Bactine, the disinfectant/antiseptic is useful for flushing out a cut/scrape/wound on horse or human. It’s especially recommended if the wound is contaminated with dirt or mud. If a wound is dirty, first rinse with water or contact lens solution, then apply Betadine, rinse with water, and apply an antibiotic ointment and wound dressing.
[ ] Sunscreen. Carry sunscreen in case your riding buddies forget to put it on or so that you can reapply on the trail. If you ride through water or on hot days, it’s good to reapply often.
[ ] Triple antibiotic ointment. Apply Neosporin or similar ointment to prevent infection of a wound and help facilitate healing. Opt for the pain-relief option to help humans feel better fast.
[ ] Water. In addition to warding off dehydration and heat stroke, water is great to wash out wounds. Make sure to have pure, clean water with you at all times.
[ ] Ibuprofen. Have it on hand for human (not horse) use in case of injury or a fall to help reduce swelling. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
Heidi Melocco (www.wholepicture.org) is a lifelong horsewoman, equine journalist, and award-winning photographer based in Mead, Colorado.