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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.


It 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 hemostats.
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 healthy tissues.

If 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 tissue damage.

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 prevent shock.

Most lacerations heal well given appropriate care. Remember that what you do can make a huge difference for your horse!




Denise Bickel DVM
Whole Horse Veterinary Services
Phone # 517-474-4050
Fax # 517-764-7710
3906 Seymour Rd
Jackson, MI 49201


Hours--Mon, Thurs, Fri from 11 am to 8pm, and Sat and Sun 10 am-4 pm

Whole Horse Veterinary Services. 
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