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Thursday, May 23, 2013

First Aid Kits

But first a few updates.....

The Wintec
I put a Fleece on the Wintec and it feels good!  So 17.5 with full fleece or a 17 without fleece.  That will give me a bit of flexibility when looking for a used one.  It's a secure saddle even though the seat isn't as deep as the solstice - it was a windy day and we were doing some technical footing and I never even came close to coming off the center of gravity, while still having the freedom to move around in the saddle as needed.

My leg is pretty stable in the saddle except.....that it moves more on one diagonal than the other.  This is indescribably annoying.  Rising and falling with the left shoulder?  Perfectly stable leg.  Rising and falling with the right shoulder?  Leg (especially my right) rubs back and forth.  SO ANNOYING.  Farley definitely has a preference for leads etc.  It took a year of dressage lessons before she would consistently pick up both canter leads equally and she's noticeably stiff to one side and overbent on the other.  Not totally her fault of course - her rider isn't the perfect picture of balance and symmetry either......So, I got 2 things out of yesterday's ride:

1: We have GOT to keep working on the basics and doing the dressage because over time, one sideness is NOT the recipe for soundness and health.  Dressage and making sure I don't favor one lead/diagonal over the other is important!

2: I rode in shorts - which I thought would be OK because I had a full fleece.  It was NOT.  The fleece is worn near the bottom of the leathers and about 30 minutes in I knew I was going to have to cut the ride shorter than I wanted because the rubbing and rising pain was starting to influence my riding.  I found myself only wanting to ride the left diagonal, since my leg didn't rub and was stable.  A PERFECT example of why the tack has to fit you as well as the horse and be comfortable. 

Of Cruppers
After the ride, I did some crupper training in the arena.

I had thought that Farley's first crupper experience would provide enough fodder for an entire post......but it ended up being a complete nonstory, which is why we are going to talk about first aid kits today!  The hardest part was convincing her to lift her tail enough I could get it on.  I tried all my tricks, including the one I learned in vet school so I could temp an uncooperative horse - touching the anus.  Nope.  It finally occurred to me to have her walk forward a couple of steps - when walking forward she naturally unclamps her tail and I was able to slip in on.

No bucking, no hysterics, NOTHING.

I love this mare.  We will ignore the fact that earlier in the day, in order to try and ease my burning calves I brought my feet forward over her shoulders at a walk for the last part of the ride and she turned around and bit my foot.

In general she's so sensible and easy.

At this point I'm not sure I could get the crupper on at the beginning of a ride, but I'll ride with one every ride from now until my next ride in mid June and see how it goes!  She has a really sensitive girth area and I'm hoping that using a crupper will decrease any over sensitivity that she's getting after a lot of hills. 

And now......Today we are going to discuss first aid kits - for the human and the horse. 
Why?  Because unless you have spent some time really evaluating your first aid kit and asking some key questions, chances are you won’t have what you really need in an emergency. 

Key question: What situations do I want to be able to address with my kit? 
IMO this is THE most important question, yet the least asked. 

Here’s the scenarios that I think about when I set up my emergency kit

For the horse
Stabilize a bleeding wound
Relieve pain associated with musculoskeletal injuries, colic
Address a tendon injury in the first 24 hours (wrapping etc.)
Clean a wound
Bandage a wound
***All of these, except for the more minor cuts and injuries are only until I can get my horse to the vet.

For the human
Relieve pain
Bandage wounds - minor
Stabilize more major wounds until can get medical attention
Treat diarrhea if I'm in the woods or in the middle of a ride
Remove splinters, ticks, and cactus spines

Considering scenarios is important because they will guide your choices of what to include and what not to include in your first aid kit - having a kit that you are comfortable with and knowing what you would use each piece of equipment for will make you more confident in using it, and will make the kit more useful. 

Other important questions/considerations
How often will I inspect my kit for cleanliness, expired stuff, and completeness? 

I know myself well. I tend to evaluate my kit only before long trips, usually the day that I leave. I also don’t have a ton of space, sometimes it gets left in the trailer after trips (where it can be really hot), and the environment is always dusty.  What does this mean?  I set up the kit to try and make it easy to maintain.  It fits in a container that I can carry with one hand to make it easy to take it out the trailer after events so it doesn’t get as hot.  It has a close fitting lid to not let dust in and I keep stuff that shouldn’t get dirty in ziplocks.  The kit is small enough that I can find what I need.  It has a few basic medications that I need to keep an eye on (bute, surpass) but in general the items in the kit are stable and don’t expire (bandages etc.) or have a long shelf life. I keep more feeding syringes than I need in it because I’m constantly borrowing them out of the kit for electrolytes :).

What are my skills and abilities related to first aid and being able to address an emergency?  And if I don’t specifically have the skill, is it likely that I will be with someone who can and is willing to do it for me? 

Here is an example.  If you have never wrapped a horse’s leg before, and don’t have some basic principles, carrying materials to do an emergency bandange/wrap isn’t very useful.  However, especially if you are in ride camp, it is likely that SOMEONE near you CAN wrap a horse’s leg and is willing to do it for you, if you have the stuff.  Thus, I would argue that including the right materials to wrap is a wise choice. 

How about another example?  Fluids.  Bags of fluids.  You could argue that this is an excellent idea.  In fact, I heard riders talking about whether keeping some bags in their trailers was a good idea at the convention last year.  Horses are generally tolerant of fluid overload so there’s a large safety margin in giving fluids, and endurance horses are usually dehydrated at the end of the ride, even if they look good.  Lots of problems begin and end with Dehydration, so having several liters of fluids (assuming room, weight, and replacing them when they expire aren’t issues) could be an excellent addition to your first aid kit.  IF YOU KNOW HOW TO USE THEM.  If not, they will sit there and expire and cost you money and are useless when you really need them.  I know how to put in a catheter and yes, I could administer fluids.  If you come up to me at ride camp and ask me to do so for your horse, I will not. Sorry - comes too close to “treatment” that should be done by a vet or it’s owner (if you are the owner of the horse you have some protection against practicing medicine without a license). There is a small argument that if your horse gets in trouble at a ride and you have fluids, you can get the treatment vet to give them, since it’s possible that the vet doesn’t have lots of fluids on hand to give.....So, assuming for a moment that I did not know how to place a catheter and could not administer fluids, I would argue that the money and space could be better used for something else.  

In the next post we will consider the specifics of what will go into the kits - I'll share what is in my kits, a friend's kit, my opinions on the contents of some commercial kits. 


  1. The Great Crupper Experiment was a non-event for Dixie too. Funny how they're just super cool about things sometimes.

    I hadn't thought about diarrhea or splinters, good idea. My rationale for not even carrying Bute is that it's so bad to give a dehydrated horse, and odds are if I need it she's already dehydrated. Can't wait to see what you actually put in your kit!

  2. Hannah, my fat fingers deleted your comment instead of publishing it, I'm so sorry. :-(

    I don't carry a first aid kit with me when I ride it is just kept in my trailer. there is a couple of reasons for this but the main one is that I couldn't think of a scenario where having a first aid kit with me would make a substantial difference in the outcome of an emergency on the trail. chances are, in order to stabilize a major wound that needs to be stablized before I can get back to the trailer would require more supplies in what I could fit into a saddle bag. major human injurIes mostly fall into the same category. With the exception of aspirin for a heart attack, getting help is the best first aid. Shiest and other clothing can be used to stop bleeding. when backpacking last year my group came acrossed someone that had had a fall from the cliffs and had been laying on the beach overnight with injuries. While someone ran up the trail to the ranger station, we covered him with a sleeping bag, kept him company, and fed him brownies. He was an er doc so we weren't going to argue about the food! Since I was backpacking I did have a first aid kit, but can you think of anything else we could have done besides getting hell, warmth and company?

    1. I try to carry one of those tiny rolls of duct tape in my saddlebags. Duct tape a wound tight and it'll slow the bleeding; duct tape a broken finger to its buddies; duct tape your tights back together when they explode. And a silver emergency blanket, for shock or thunderstorms.

    2. Ooh, brownies. I will have to add those to my kit. And then eat them and replenish and eat and replenish...wouldn't want to be without a necessity when disaster strikes!

      My car kit is one of the commercial ultralight models (because I was dragging my feet on putting together my own version and figured I'd have better luck starting with something and then modifying as I saw fit) because I wanted it to get in the habit of bringing it on rides/hikes...but I've been thinking of constructing something like this:

      I figure a take-along kit is going to be used for minor but irritating stuff damn near 100% of the time, so really a couple of band-aids/moleskin and some Sting-Eez should do it. But I tend to start by adding a couple of band-aids to my backpack and two minutes later I'm shaking out the contents of our medicine cabinet, in progress?

      I like the little-roll-of-duct-tape idea!

  3. I could probably perform minor surgery with my first aid kit. It has a ton in it, though it is the one I bring in my car. Not camping or anything. I have compression bandages, meds for almost any scenario, suture kit, and a lot more I can't even remember right now.

    1. Soooo..........In general if you have the skill set to use all the equipment you include in your kit, no problem :).

      I'll play devil's advocate and ask why you have a suture kit. I too carry one, but have decided that it's for repairing equipment, NOT humans or animals. I did some asking at the vet hospital and tried to find scenerios where it might be appropriate to stitch something up in the field, and I was hard pressed to even find one scenerio. There's a golden period of about 6 hours to be able to stitch a wound, and the wound has to be really clean +/- debridement or refreshing of the wound edges. Everyone I talked to was in favor of using other wound management techniques and managing it as an open wound out in the field.

      I guess if you had to do an appendix removal in a remote location? Then you would be as clean as possible and you would use a suture kit, BUT, at least in my kit, I'm not planning for that scenerio :).

    2. It would be unlikely that I would use a suture kit in a regular scenario. I would favor a compression bandage. But when I go overnight camping, half of that med bag goes into my pack. When not camping, I find it easier to keep it all organized in the med bag. You also never know when you're going to be stranded for a week in Colorado.

  4. With the caveat that some people like to be super prepared and get great joy out of compiling the kit (you know who I mean), as time goes along I tend to be more minimalist. Of course I also don't have a lot of the skill set needed to use anything fancy.

    In all my time of doing crazy and stupid things, the only things I have ever used out of my first aid kit are bandages and aspirin. In most cases I only used the aspirin/pain meds because I had them. Bandages can be made out of a number of clothing items and duct tape is a wonderful thing. But, vet wrap is more versatile and easier on the skin IMHO.

    I just try and plan for known hazards and go for versatility. Big items for me on the trail are sting kit (THAT I've had to use!), multitool, and anti-chafing cream.

    In the trailer I try and have stuff that I know can be used by the people who know more than I do (Melinda).



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