Lacerations are one of the most
common injuries in horses. Wounds to the head and lower
legs are especially common. What you do when you first
find an injury can greatly affect healing of the wound,
and sometimes even save the horse’s life.
is important to always have a first aid kit on hand. A
first aid kit can be kept in the barn or trailer, and
small emergency pack made to fit in a saddle bag for
trail rides. You can read our first aid section for more
information, but there are some basic supplies needed
for wounds. These include: absorbent pads (maxi-pads
work well), Vetwrap or a similar self adhesive bandage,
cotton padding such as gamgee padding, a clean reusable
stall bandage, a disinfectant such as betadine, and
Unless a wound is obviously very superficial, it is best
to always call your veterinarian immediately when a
wound is discovered. If stitches are required, it is
best for that to be done less than 4hours after when the
wound occurs. Lacerations over joints need immediate
attention to avoid infection.
The most pressing concern when dealing with a
laceration is to control bleeding. This is usually best
done by applying pressure to the wound. If there is a
foreign body in the wound, remove it only if it is
small, and save it to show your veterinarian. Large
objects, or foreign bodies in the chest or abdomen, may
actually be preventing bleeding or exposure of internal
organs, and should be left in when possible. If a
foreign body must remain in the wound, applying pressure
above and below the wound will help control bleeding.
Otherwise, for normal wounds, apply pressure by placing
absorbent pads over the wound and then pressing on them
or firmly wrapping them over the wound. If bleeding
continues multiple layers of bandage may be used. Do not
apply a tourniquet as they can cause additional harm to
there is spurting blood as from a large vein or artery
that has been cut, the hemostats can be used to grasp
and squeeze the end of the vessel to stop bleeding. A
wrap can then be applied over them if needed. With large
wounds to the chest or upper body, towels or sheets can
be used to control bleeding. Also, the application of
ice directly to a wound will constrict blood vessel and
slow bleeding if it can not be stopped in any other way.
Do not apply ice for longer than 15 minutes to avoid
If there is minimal bleeding , or the bleeding stops,
the wound can be cleaned with betadine or a similar
disinfectant. The wound can be cold hosed to clean off
debris and reduce inflammation and bleeding. However, do
not spray water deeply into a wound or spray a wound at
high pressure as this may drive contamination deeper
into the wound. It is best not to apply any wound
ointments or powders as they may interfere with
stitching the wound.
If possible move the horse to a well-lit area where
the wound can be examined.
Try to remain calm and keep the horse calm as well.
In cases where the wound is severe or there is a lot of
bleeding, it may be best to put a sheet on the horse to
Most lacerations heal well given appropriate care.
Remember that what you do can make a huge difference for
Denise Bickel DVM
Whole Horse Veterinary Services
Phone # 517-474-4050
Fax # 517-764-7710
3906 Seymour Rd
Jackson, MI 49201