Press room

2014 press releases

Posted: 20/02/14

Think First Aid

No matter how well you manage your horse and his environment, accidents do happen and horses can become ill often without warning so it is important that you know how to cope in a crisis. Petplan Equine Vet of the Year, Gil Riley of Poolhouse Veterinary Clinic provides some sage advice for ensuring you are prepared and able to provide adequate first aid care should the worst happen.

Discovering your horse is ill or injured can be particularly distressing so making sure you are as well equipped as possible to identify and deal with the problem swiftly and effectively can help minimise anguish and any complications that could result from delay.

Daily Check

It is important that you are familiar with common illnesses and injuries to enable you to spot signs and symptoms quickly, so it’s a good idea to keep yourself informed by reading up on these conditions.

Early recognition of a problem is the best way to ensure a favourable outcome from any treatment. It is therefore vital that you check your horse on a daily or better still, twice daily, basis. Look out for changes in his behaviour that may indicate discomfort, look for any discharge from eyes and nose, check him over for cuts and run your hands down his legs to identify any changes such as filling or heat that may indicate an injury or infection. Removing rugs and grooming your horse daily allows you to spot any injuries that might be otherwise hidden from view.

Be Prepared

Your ability to act quickly, decisively and calmly under pressure will be determined to some extent by how prepared you are for any eventuality.

Make sure you have a properly stocked first aid kit which should include vet wrap, scissors, bandages, Animalintex, and hibiscrub among other essentials.

Break out box - first aid kit

  • Sterile Dressings
  • Soft bandages such as soffban
  • Adhesive bandages such as vetwrap
  • Cotton Wool
  • Gamgee
  • Plastic Tape
  • Stable bandages
  • Thermometer
  • Hibiscrub solution
  • Animalintex
  • Scissors

Ask yourself if you know what to do in an emergency: for example, how to stem bleeding, bandage a leg, take your horse’s temperature and so forth. If you are in doubt why not arrange for your vet to give you a brief tutorial.

Your mobile phone could help you save the day so make sure you always have it with you and that it’s properly charged. As most of us keep our horses in rural areas mobile phone signals can be variable so it pays to be aware of the whereabouts of the nearest landline.

Make sure your lorry or trailer is roadworthy and available should you need to transport your horse to the veterinary clinic.


As well as in your phone contacts list, make sure that you keep a printed record of emergency telephone numbers in your tack room or barn. These should include your vet’s and farrier’s numbers. You should also have your insurance company’s contact and policy details handy. In the case of an accident involving injury to yourself, a number of a close friend or relation should be available and also stored in your mobile contacts list as ICE (In Case of Emergency). There are also apps such as Horse Rider SOS that are useful for alerting third parties in the event that you are injured. These are particularly handy for those who hack or work alone with horses.

Acting in an emergency

Keep Calm and Carry On

While every case is different, how you act in an emergency will have a significant impact on the outcome of the situation so the best advice has to be: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Making an assessment of your horse is the first thing you need to do. Consider how much pain your horse appears to be in. Is he distressed or agitated? Is it a potentially life threatening condition? Eg colic, profuse haemorrhage, is he trapped etc.

When to call the vet?

If your horse is distressed, appears to be in considerable pain or is in a potentially life threatening situation you must call the vet immediately, without hesitation, as every minute counts. The severity of some situations can be more difficult to assess. In these instances, watch carefully and if your horse’s condition is either not improving or deteriorating then once again, you must call the vet. It is far better to act decisively than to wait. It is understandable that some horse owners do not wish to trouble their vet or incur charges unnecessarily but it is important to note that the extent and cost of treatment is likely to be significantly lower if the horse is treated early than if the condition is allowed to deteriorate due to delay. This is one of the reasons we recommend horse insurance because owners have the peace of mind of knowing that they can call the vet immediately, safe in the knowledge that they won’t have to worry about the cost.

First Aid Planning

The following offers first aid guidance in respect of three emergency scenarios: a trapped horse, suspected colic and an open wound.

Five point first aid plan for Colic

Although Colic is more common in winter it can strike at any time. Therefore it is vital that you check on your horse at least daily to check for any changes in his demeanor or behavior.

Early signs that may indicate colic include: Flank watching, kicking or biting at his abdomen, stretching out, getting up and down frequently, pawing the ground and being generally agitated.

More severe symptoms include: Sweating, rolling, sitting like a dog, lying on his back, difficulty standing, rapid respiration and pulse rates, red gums and eyes.

  1. Take the horse to an area where he can get down and roll if it needs to without fear of injury e.g. manege or paddock.
  2. Walk your horse to distract its attention from the abdominal pain but if he wants to get down, let him (trying to hold him up is pointless and risks handler injury)
  3. If in acute pain, deteriorating pain or after 20 minutes a low-grade pain has not resolved itself, then call the vet.
  4. When the vet arrives, be able to tell them when your horse was last seen normal, any recent changes in diet, worming history, number and consistency of recent droppings, amount of water drunk and so forth. The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for the vet to make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment which is another reason why it is so important to observe your horse daily.
  5. Make sure there is diesel in your lorry or that you have access to a transporter should hospital referral be necessary

Five point First Aid plan for a wound

The first thing you have to do upon finding your horse is wounded is assess the severity of the damage.

  1. If the wound is haemorraging (bleeding profusely) apply direct pressure with a clean pad to reduce loss of blood.
  2. Consider the location of the wound. If the wound is over a joint it is an emergency so do not delay in calling your vet. Be aware of puncture wounds in particular - they may not bleed, but if into a joint they can be fatal if left untreated initially, so once again seek urgent assistance.
  3. Look to see if there is damage to the structures. Is the wound full skin thickness and involving muscle, joint or bone?
  4. At this point you may be able to assess yourself if you feel the wound needs suturing. If so or you’re not sure, call the vet.
  5. Whether or not you have decided to call the vet, it is important to clean and dress the wound as soon as possible to prevent infection. It is best to use diluted Hibiscrub and warm water in a clean bowl. Hose off any debris around the wound first, clip hair away if possible, then clean thoroughly. If appropriate, dress with sterile wound pad secured with conforming bandages and tension bandage.

First Aid Facts

The five most common causes of emergency call outs are:

  • Colic
  • Wounds
  • Choke
  • Acute lameness (often a sudden onset foot infection or laminitis)
  • Foaling (January to August!)

Insurance Advice

  • Know your horse so as to spot any changes as soon as possible
  • In case of emergency contact your vet and follow advice
  • Always act in your horses’ best interests first
  • Do not worry about calling your insurance company – this you can do once you are no longer in an emergency situation
  • The fact that you haven’t called your insurer prior to making any decision should not affect your claim
  • If you need to know if a claim is payable before taking further action there is an option to request a pro-forma to confirm your claim meets the terms and conditions of your policy
  • Store your insurance contact and policy details in your mobile phone.
  • for more information

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For more information please contact:

Name Telephone Email
Charlotte Collyer 0208 707 8335 [email protected]

Petplan Equine is the UK's leading horse insurance provider offering a wide variety of flexible horse insurance and rider insurance policies which cater for all levels of experience.

Established more than 20 years ago, Petplan Equine is part of Allianz Insurance, one of the largest general insurers in the world.

For more information about a Petplan Equine horse insurance policy, please visit:

Note to editors:

  • Petplan Equine was founded in 1988.
  • It is part of Allianz Animal Health, the largest provider of animal health insurance in the world and part of Allianz – one of the largest general insurers in the UK.
  • In addition to horse and pony insurance options, Petplan Equine provides dedicated products for veteran horses and rider only insurance cover.
  • It is the sister brand of Petplan, the largest provider of small animal insurance in the UK.
  • Petplan Equine believes in supporting the equine community and provides more financial support to equestrian sports and activities than any equine insurance provider in the UK.
  • The Pet Plan Charitable Trust was founded in 1994 to raise much needed funds for animal welfare and veterinary projects. Money is raised by Petplan and Petplan Equine customers giving an optional £1.50 to the Trust when they take out or renew their policy. To date, almost £5 million has been awarded by the Trust.
  • Petplan and Petplan Equine are specialist insurers. As such, the company employs more horse riders and owners than any other and more former veterinary practice staff than any other to ensure the provision of specialist knowledge.
  • Redwings Horse Sanctuary is the UK’s largest horse sanctuary, caring for over 1200 rescued horses at its nine sites around the country, with 500 more living in happy Guardian homes across East Anglia. The charity is entirely funded by public donation. Find out more at