ABC’s Volume 2 Care And Maintenance Logo

First Aid


Sometimes it seems like a horse could hurt himself even if you locked him in a padded stall. Running and playing with other horses keeps your horse happy but may mean he occasionally gets scuffed up. Being flight animals and very social animals, means that wrecks and injuries can happen. With time and experience, you will learn how to deal with minor first aid issues and you’ll know when it is important to call the vet. When daily care and treatment is required, your vet will show you what needs to be done, but there are a few skills that are important for horse owners to have.

First Aid Supplies:
Make sure you have all the first aid supplies on hand that you might need, before you need them. Here’s what I like to keep on hand, readily available in my barn:

Betadine surgical scrub and Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning wounds

Witch hazel (a cleaning stringent that does not sting)

Alcohol and cotton balls (for cleaning implements and for use with injections)

Saline solution (for irrigating eyes or any mucus membranes)

Skin ointment like Corona, for minor scrapes

Medicated ointment like furason (for cuts and wounds)

Blue lotion (spray or liquid, for scrapes and small cuts)

Lubricating gel, Vaseline

4×4 sponges (or gauze pads) for cleaning and dressing wounds

Bandaging supplies: cotton, rolled gauze, vet wrap, Duct tape
Disposable diapers (infant size; great for girth sores or foot bandages)

Disposable gloves

Large syringe and mastitis needle (for irrigating puncture wounds)

Digital thermometer

Bandage scissors



Drugs (issued by vet): bute, banamine

Scrapes—losing a bit of hair but not breaking the skin happens all the time as horses bite and kick each other or run into branches or fences and you shouldn’t worry too much about it. Keep the scrape clean and rub a little ointment on the skin to help encourage the hair to grow back. If there’s an abrasion but not through the full thickness of the skin, I might use Blue Lotion to help dry it up and protect the skin.

Cuts—first determine if the cut is deep enough for sutures or in a place where it needs suturing, like the face or lips. When in doubt, call the vet. To treat cuts, wash the wound with a mild disinfectant soap like betadine (diluted to the color of iced-tea). Scrub around the edges of the wound (you might need to clip away hair) briskly to encourage good blood flow and make sure all foreign matter and scabs are washed away. After it dries, use a medicated ointment like furason and keep the cut dry and clean and exposed to the air when possible. Bandaging is sometimes required to keep the wound clean, but it should be done by someone that knows how. If the wound needs sutures, your vet will give you treatment instructions.

Puncture wounds– are really common, like for instance when a horse runs into a branch and jabs a stick into his flesh. Punctures may be hard to recognize since from the outside the wound is very small but on the inside it could be big. Puncture wounds must heal form the inside out—to be kept clean and irrigated to keep a scab from forming. If a puncture wound is not kept clean and draining, it can turn into an abscess. Look for signs of a puncture wound which may be small on the outside but deep or bigger on the inside and may have debris inside. Wash thoroughly, clip away all hair from the edges of the wound and try to prevent a scab from forming over the opening. Use a mastitis needle and syringe with a mild betadine solution to irrigate the wound daily to insure that it heals from the inside out. Consult your vet if you suspect foreign matter may be in the wound or if the horse may need antibiotics.

Hoof abscesses are common in horses, particularly in wetter/warmer climates. They are characterized by sudden, acute lameness where the horse may not even be weight bearing on the affected foot and/or is pointing his toe. Always consult your vet on lameness but if it is thought to be a hoof abscess, you may need to soak the foot in warm water with Epsom salt a couple times a day for a few days, until the abscess bursts and drains—which should give the horse immediate relief of pain. In some cases, the hoof may need bandaging after the abscess comes out, to prevent further infection. Always follow your vet’s advice.

Cleaning, dressing and bandaging wounds: Usually it’s best to keep wounds clean, dry and exposed to air and sunlight. But sometimes wounds are really hard to keep clean and they may need to be bandaged to promote better healing—let your vet decide. Bandaging horses is tricky and if done incorrectly, the bandage may come off or, in worst case scenarios; the bandage could cause discomfort or further injury to the horse if it gets too tight and cuts off circulation.

Wounds should be cleaned, dried and medicated before bandaging. Only some places on the horse can be effectively bandaged and the most common place is the feet and legs. All bandages on the legs should be padded so as not to disrupt circulation and they should be wrapped well above and well below the injury. Make sure there is an even tension all the way around on the wrap—not too tight. Usually you will have to wrap all the way to the foot to keep the bandage from slipping down. Sometimes a ballistic layer needs to be added at the end to keep the bandage from ripping or being torn off by the horse. Duct tape can be handy. Consult your vet on how often the bandage should be changed and what medications to use.

For your own safety, always keep in mind that a sick or injured horse may be more dangerous or react in ways that aren’t typical for that horse—so use extra caution. Always wear disposable gloves for your own protection from chemicals, medications and infection.

Safety Concerns: Broken Bones, Concussion, Whiplash… Should I Buy This Horse? Logo

Question Category: Safety Concerns

Question: Dear Julie,

I recently picked up riding after a lifelong LOVE of horses and have been taking lessons twice weekly for about two and a half months with the intention of learning everything I can in preparation of purchasing my own after making sure I was up to the commitment. I have also purchased and read almost every equine book and magazine I could get my hands on. It only took about two weeks of lessons before I started hanging out at my barn even when I didn’t have lessons; basically I am hooked and ready to purchase. About a month ago one of the horses at the barn came up for sale, he is a beautiful 9 year old chestnut quarter gelding that I already knew didn’t have the best reputation for ground manners as he fractured my hand when he rushed out of the paddock when I was getting the school horse out who is in his turn out group. My instructor none the less thought he would be the perfect fit as the work he needed would fulfill my need for a challenge.

I rode him in my lesson the first day and talked it over and I decided I would lease him for one month to see if my instructor and I felt we could turn him around in the long run by making minor progress in the short term. In two and a half very hot and muggy weeks I only missed one day working with him and during that time he stopped bolting when presented with the bridle (I did buy a gentler bit). Although he still holds his head high at least he wasn’t running off and dragging us with him and also started coming to me when I called him instead of running away from me every time I, or anyone else for that matter, came near him. Then during my first ride on my own without my instructor I fell. It was my first fall off any horse and left me with a minor concussion and whiplash a sore back and bruised ego. It also set me back to almost day one of my lessons as I became afraid to do anything but ride while the horse was walking. After reading your chapters in “Ride With Confidence!” I realized I got back on him a little to early as I had not gotten over the fall emotionally and had all but convinced myself that I would fall off again even though I knew that the original incident was caused by me in the first place; and I almost did fall, had my instructor not had him on a lounge line when I freaked. At that point after the fracture, the ground manners, the concussion and being stepped on more times than I can count I decided that he wasn’t the horse for me because of the work needed on his ground manners which also means he needs work under saddle as his previous owners taught him he did not have to respect humans and my level of experience.

Unfortunately or fortunately I love this horse and we have completely bonded even in the short time I had with him and you can see his desire to do the right thing if just taught (Not to mention he is a TOTAL sweetheart). I left him alone and dealt with school horses only for two weeks until last Sunday when I couldn’t stand it anymore. I remain still the only human at the barn that he will come to, in fact most of the time he comes running when he sees me (he does stop before he runs me over without a signal from me and he isn’t crowding as much and generally is doing better). I am not afraid of him now that I have had time to get over my fall but I am still riding school horses until my confidence is back to where it needs to be on the trot and canter (I am re-learning both right now and much faster thanks to your book) and I have no intention of riding him until such time. I have restarted his training at least the parts I am able to do with my skill level and have started with making him wait for me to say its OK before he can come out of the stall, before moving forward, etc and by carefully taking his food away as he is eating in an attempt to begin to instill that I am alpha not him (I also stopped being his personal carrot dispenser and he only gets them out of his grain bucket now). Is the food trick a good one? Will it actually yield the results I am looking for?

I do plan to supplement what I am doing with him with a professional trainer. My problem is my instructor who is also a trainer understandably wants the task but I am leery as I am not completely convinced of her methods because I feel they are a little too heavy handed and emotional. In the meantime she is still my instructor and I know that not giving her the job will hurt her feelings if not cause some downright tension when it comes to me and my horse. I still have a week to decide for sure if I want to purchase him. After what you have heard here do you think it is a good idea to continue? If so, what would you do about the training situation? If I do not use her for training him how would I go about finding one with gentler methods as she is the only equestrian professional I know and asking questions at the barn, I fear, will only create tension within the barn. Any help with this would be greatly appreciated and I look forward to receiving your much valued advice.


Answer: Trish,

Who needs a challenge? Horses and riding are difficult enough when everything is perfect. Why would you want to make it harder? Listen carefully, DO NOT BUY THIS HORSE. Life’s too short, you need a well trained horse, especially for your first horse. Are a broken hand, concussion, being stomped on, whiplash and a bruised ego not enough for you? My guess is that you, like me, are not a spring chicken and have perhaps lost a little of your bounce. You don’t need a challenge at this stage of your life, I know I don’t.

You need to find the safest and best trained horse that your money can buy. This horse will be fine in someone else’s hands, in fact, he will probably be better off in more capable hands. It is naïve to think you are the only one that can give this horse a good life; let him go. You will love a horse that you feel safe with even more than you love this horse. The horse is a huge factor in the equation of gaining confidence with horses; get one that you can build confidence with instead of constantly re-building.

BTW- I am looking for a horse to replace my 25 y/o Morgan mare, who is now sadly unsound. I am looking for a 14-15 y/o gelding that has been there and done that and is totally push button and seasoned. I have ridden professionally for thirty years and specialize in training young horses, but what I want for MY horse, is mature and settled task master, NOT a project. Life’s too short and I don’t have that much time to ride (I ride almost every day, just not my own horse).

Sorry, I am not normally inclined to tell people what to do, but this answer seems obvious. I just hope it is not too late.


Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Safety Concerns: Accident Frequency At Lesson Barns Logo

Question Category: Safety Concerns

Question: I work for a large lesson/boarding facility – we have about 50 school horses, 50 boarder horses, and a couple hundred students come through each week. I am concerned because we have had a string of pretty nasty falls recently and I am wondering if this is normal for such a large facility or if there is something unsafe happening. Is there an average number of falls that is acceptable for a facility? Is it pure chance whether a fall is minor or requires an ambulance?

Answer: Through my work with CHA, I have worked with numerous large program operators (50-100+ school horses; 200-300 students per week) that have virtually zero incident rates. I am not a believer in the statement that falling off and having injuries is just a part of the sport. I believe if you have that attitude then you will have wrecks and injuries.

I am not aware of any statistics that say how many falls or injuries are normal, but I think we should all have a zero tolerance policy. Without question, riding is a risky sport and there is nothing we can do to totally eliminate the inherent risk involved with horses. However, risks can be mitigated and with a serious focus on safety, there will be fewer injuries. Certainly some riding activities are riskier than others, such as jumping, and you would expect a higher fall rate with the riskier activities.

Whether or not there is an injury associated with a fall depends on many factors, however, many people advocate teaching people how to fall by relaxing and rolling into the fall rather than bracing against it. There are many good models for this in martial arts and it may not be a bad idea to address this with your students.

Every time there is an incident, whether someone is hurt or not, there should be an incident report made and careful scrutiny by managers as to how the incident might have been prevented. There are few, if any, freak accidents and almost every incident is preventable in some way. When incidents are reported and reviewed, they become excellent training tools for improving the safety record at the facility.

I have spoken with many instructors that share your frustration in seeing the opportunity to improve the safety record at a facility, but feeling powerless to take action. The best you can do is work within the system and be persistent in making suggestions on how to improve. If you have exhausted this approach and made no progress and you still feel that the safety at the facility is unacceptable, then you may have to consider resigning. If that is the case, you should write down all of your concerns and send them in a certified letter to the owner/manager and/or board of directors. Also send a registered copy to yourself, but do not open it, just save it for your files, in the event that any future litigation arises.

The most important thing is for you to keep your high standards in safety, maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward incidents and injuries and when incidents do occur, always examine them closely and find a way to prevent it from happening again.

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.

Building A Better Relationship: Should I Sell My Horse? Logo

Question Category: Building a Better Relationship

Question: Hi Julie,

I met you at the 4 day clinic at the Winding River Resort in June 2004. I have the sorrel with a wide blaze and 3 white socks. He had some problems with bridling and using clippers. Also you showed me how the saddle I had did not fit him and was causing the white spots on his withers. We had lots of rain and mud to play in. I am hoping that this will jog your memory of that clinic. It truly was the best time I’ve spent in learning and relaxing more with Tucker and he with me.

About two weeks ago I was riding in a park here in Colorado Springs with a friend. We’d been out on the trail for about two hours and were about 20 minutes away from my trailer. That’s when we saw a beautiful young doe standing in the grass and scrub oak next to the trail. I was leading and we almost had passed the deer when I noticed her. She was standing still and we had stopped to watch her. As I had turned slightly to the right, looking back over my right shoulder, I was beginning to turn Tucker toward the doe. What I think happened was that the doe flicked her tail and Tucker saw it out of the corner of his right eye and took off. I was (stupidly) off balanced and ended up falling off hitting my head. According to my friend, I got up and told her that I would ride Tucker to the trailer. I do not remember anything from the time I saw the deer until we had gotten back to the trailer and Frances called the paramedics.

I am getting pressure to sell Tucker. Two days after the accident and after I got out of the hospital, I was able to spend some time riding with Martin Black (of Idaho) at Tee Cross Ranch. I had asked if I should use a different bit on him. He found Tucker’s neck real pliable to both directions, giving really well to the one way stop. He’s not the problem… it’s me. Tucker just needs to be ridden long hours most every day. I was able to take Tucker to a friend’s ranch over the weekend and we rode several hours mostly loping along the grasslands. Tucker never tired out. He thoroughly enjoyed it out there. I believe that I am finally getting a clearer picture of what this horse needs and what I am able to do or not to do.

I have made this longer than I needed to and I’m sorry. At this time I am not sure where and what to do. I’m sort of lying low to let the fury of my family’s feelings about this horse calms down. I am limited to a small space at home to work him. I have a 60 foot round pen and can trailer him to an indoor arena that charges $10 to use it if not already booked. I need help setting up a plan and schedule to work Tucker and possibly test the waters out there to sell him, even though I don’t want to.

So now my question is with this little bit of information, what comes to mind in a game plan to work this horse and for me not to get hurt!! :)? Thank you for taking time to read through this and I am anxiously awaiting your reply.



Answer: Vicky,

I remember you and your delightful young horse well and I am sure sorry to hear of your accident. I would agree that the horse did nothing wrong and is not a “dangerous” horse, but he is young and does need some miles and life experience on him before he is a reliable mount. Your family only has your best interest in mind and they are frightened of losing you. You can’t blame them and perhaps should consider every one’s best interest.

It will take a few years of solid riding to get your horse as seasoned as you and your family would like him to be. Selling him is certainly an option and may not be the worst thing. You can afford to be particular about who you sell him to and there are many people that can give him a good home.

Another idea would be to lease him out to someone that will put the miles on him. You may be able to find a rancher that would take him to use as a ranch horse for a year or two. Or, you might be able to find a competent rider that would take him for sometime. In either situation, you would probably have to offer a free lease and in order to find the situation you want, you may even have to pay the horse’s board and upkeep.

He is a great horse, although young and flighty, and I can understand your reluctance to part with him. But life is too short to get hurt when you can avoid it and lord knows, we don’t heal like we used to.

If you do sell him, look for a horse that is 12 years old or older and has “been there and done that.” My personal horse is 24 and she is an awesome ride and it is wonderful to have a horse that can stand in the pasture for a year and you can walk in, saddle up and go like you rode every day. Age and experience is not only nice, it is invaluable.

This is a tough decision for you to make and I am confident you’ll make the right one. Good luck to you.


Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.