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As horse owners, we all like to think that nothing bad will ever happen at our farms, or to our horses – but the likelihood is, if you are in this business long enough, you will probably be involved in some sort of emergency situation. As veterinarians, we encounter emergencies almost every day – and sometimes what determines the outcome of a situation is how prepared our clients are to deal with them. Obviously every emergency is different, but there are few things you can do very easily to be ready to handle these situations.

1) Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in the barn

This seems to be obvious, but it is amazing how many times we will go out to treat a wound and no one can find a bandage to put on the horse to control bleeding until we get there. For a list of items that could be included in a first aid kit, please click here.

Some of the most important things to have on hand are likely a thermometer, a stethoscope, a clean set of bandages (cottons and wraps), and supplies for basic wound treatment.

2) Post a list of emergency contact numbers in the barn

If you have horses at home, this list may just be your personal contact information, emergency 911 number, vet and farrier phone numbers and the number of someone to contact if you are unavailable. If you have boarders at your farm, the list should include contact information for each of your boarders, as well as a number and name of their preferred veterinarian. Often if emergency treatment is required for a horse, we as the attending veterinarians need consent from the owner to proceed – unless an agreement has previously been made between the boarder and farm owner authorizing the farm owner to make emergency decisions.

3) Consider whether or not surgical intervention is a possible option for your horse

Again, something we never like to think about is the possibility that our horse might need surgery in a life or death situation. This could be a colic surgery, or a surgery to repair a fracture, or it may just be treatment for a medical condition at a referral center that comes with an increased cost. Everyone should have a vague idea of whether or not this would be an option for their own horse – and that decision may be based on many factors, such as economics, the value of the horse, the age of the horse, etc. Consider most surgical facilities will quote you between $5000-10 000 for a colic surgery – this is a decision that is sometimes easier not to make under pressure. Also, if you leave your horse in someone else’s care – it is important that they know how you feel in this matter so they can make the appropriate decision in your absence.

4) Know who you can call to haul your horse in an emergency situation

Finding a trailer and someone to drive it in the middle of the night is not always the easiest endeavor. If you do not have your own horse trailer, or access to one when you might need it, it is important to think about who you might call if you needed emergency shipping. Having a quick discussion with a neighbor or a boarder who might have their own trailer will give you peace of mind that you could call them at any time of day if needed. Sometimes getting a horse to the surgical center quickly can make the difference between a good outcome and a bad one.