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Many horse owners are well acquainted with the challenge of managing their horses’ injuries.
As highly responsive flight animals, horses can easily injure themselves, often inadvertently colliding with objects in alarming situations. While maintaining a safe environment for your horse is crucial, injuries cannot always be entirely prevented, especially as minor skirmishes within a group can swiftly escalate into injuries.

Assessing the Injury

Upon discovering an injury on your horse, it’s essential to remain calm to accurately assess the situation.

Firstly, take a moment to gain an overview and determine whether veterinary attention is necessary. Consult a vet for the following types of wounds or injuries:

  • If the injury is accompanied by lameness or an abnormal position or posture of a limb, or if the wound area swells rapidly and significantly.
  • Large, gaping wounds where it’s difficult to assess the depth typically require stitches. Time is of the essence; wounds treated within three to four hours generally heal better.
  • Heavily bleeding wounds. When describing the bleeding to the vet, consider whether it could fill a shot glass within a minute or even a larger vessel. Keep clean compresses nearby to apply pressure if needed. Such injuries are less common, but do occur from time to time.
  • Signs of shock, such as changes in breathing, body temperature, sweating, or exhaustion, in acute injuries.
  • If foreign objects are lodged in the wound or purulent secretions are present, or if extreme heat develops around the injury site.
  • In cases where the injury’s location obstructs assessment, such as around the legs or knees, where tendons, bones, and other structures are less protected. If in doubt, it is better to consult a specialist.

First Aid Before the Vet Arrives?

While waiting for the vet, refrain from administering extensive treatment to the wound. Avoid applying ointments, iodine, or other substances, as they can complicate wound assessment. Rinse off heavy soiling with a gentle stream of water if necessary.

> Lastly, if you’re unsure, check the horse’s tetanus vaccination status. Horses are particularly sensitive to tetanus bacteria, and vaccination against tetanus is crucial for their well-being and can be life-saving.

Self-Care for Superficial Injuries

If your beloved four-legged companion has had a stroke of luck and only sustained a superficial injury while otherwise in good health, you can manage it yourself. A small scratch in the top layer of skin without bleeding or dirt typically requires no action, as a healthy horse’s immune system can easily repair it.

For wounds that are dirty with sand, soil, or bedding, begin by rinsing them with clear, running water. Having a sterile saline solution on hand is advantageous, as it can be used to rinse the wound again after removing coarse dirt. Saline solution is more effective at removing bacteria and germs. Fresh, relatively clean wounds are best rinsed directly with saline solution to prevent further contamination.

Many minor injuries may not require further treatment. However, always watch for signs of inflammation, such as warmth, redness, swelling, and tenderness, and respond accordingly.
© Adobe Stock / RD-Fotografie

Disinfectant: Yes or No?

You may choose to disinfect the wound, but it’s important to select a disinfectant specifically designed for wounds. Unsuitable disinfectants, such as surface disinfectants or normal skin disinfectants, can significantly impede wound healing and slow down the process.

If unsure about the suitability of a product, it’s better not to use one. Additionally, avoid allowing disinfectants to enter wound pockets or cavities, as they can cause significant tissue damage.

Supporting Wound Healing

Many minor wounds respond well to immediate measures if carried out promptly.
However, there are instances where these injuries are only discovered later, or the healing process doesn’t progress as expected for various reasons.

If additional support is needed, understanding the phases of wound healing can be helpful:

  • Exudation Phase (Cleansing Phase): During this phase, the wound is still cleansing itself and flushing out germs. Continued irrigation and disinfection can be beneficial. Ensure there are no foreign objects in the wound and keep it clean.
  • Granulation Phase: In this phase, delicate new tissue forms, providing a thin protective layer to the outside and initiating healing. Granulation typically begins within 24 hours in uncomplicated, clean wounds but can be delayed for up to 7 days in the presence of complications.
    Depending on tissue condition, wound gels or ointments may be used to support healing. Specialized wound gels, aloe vera, or propolis gel can be applied if the wound becomes too dry and cracked. These substances have wound-healing, nourishing, and anti-inflammatory properties. Greasy ointments should be applied only once a new, thin layer of granulation has formed or to the wound edge. Wounds typically heal from the outside in, indicated by a slightly whitish edge.
  • Epithelialization Phase: During this phase, the firm, outer layer of skin gradually forms, often initially under an externally visible crust. It may take time for several layers of cells to develop, and the skin to regain stability and resistance. Crusts should be left undisturbed until they naturally fall off on their own.

Less is Sometimes More

Sometimes, less is more when it comes to treating wounds; many minor injuries simply require no further treatment. However, you should always be vigilant for signs of inflammation, such as warmth, redness, swelling, and tenderness, and respond appropriately if normal healing is delayed.

Well-known phrases like “wounds must dry out in the air” are outdated, as is simply sealing a wound with spray plasters. It’s best to adhere to the phases of wound healing.

Top 5 Natural Remedies to Support Wound Healing

There is a wide range of herbal remedies, some of which have been used in medicine for a long time. Here are the top 5 natural remedies that are good to have in the medicine cabinet:

  • Manuka Honey: Manuka honey is considered a real blessing for infected wounds. It is available in various forms, mostly as a medicinal ointment. It has a disinfectant and strong anti-inflammatory effect and is invaluable in veterinary medicine due to its efficacy against resistant bacteria when used correctly.
  • Witch Hazel Bark or Leaves: Witch hazel is available as a ready-made ointment or tincture, but you can also make an infusion yourself. It possesses antibacterial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antipruritic effects, and slightly anesthetizes the surface. It can be used to rinse weeping wounds or treat weeping eczema or scratched wounds.
  • Calendula Flowers (Calendula officinalis): Calendula is available as a ready-made oil or ointment, or you can prepare an extract yourself. It has wound-healing and immunostimulating effects, promoting skin regeneration and is particularly suitable for poorly healing wounds.
  • Chamomile Flowers (Matricaria chamomilla): Chamomile is a well-known classic, utilized as a rinsing solution for its anti-inflammatory effect or as a nourishing ointment to promote skin regeneration. Care should be taken for potential allergenic reactions, especially in horses with known allergies.
  • Birch Bark Dry Extract: Also known as birch oleogel, this extract accelerates the epithelialization of wounds and can be used for various injuries, including sunburned horse noses. It significantly speeds up wound healing processes.