“How on earth does he do it?” That’s what I found myself asking after my accident-prone horse hurt himself for the umpteenth time by … hooking himself with the bucket, banging his hip on the barn door, or by scratching his itches too hard and nicking his eye.
There’s one in every barn: the equine that’s always getting into the most astonishing predicaments, despite all your precautions—and emerging black and blue (don't you wish you owned a bubble wrap blanket)?
But before you consider a padded stall or rubber-lined paddock (!), add the following safety checks to your routine. And, if he does get injured, be prepared with the holy grail of fixer upper wound care.
To horse-proof stalls and turnout areas, examine the perimeters to ensure they’re free of anything sharp and dangerous. If your horse keeps getting wire cuts, gets impaled on broken rails before you find them, or has a knack for entangling himself in electric fencing, maybe it’s time to change to more horse-friendly barriers.
Check your stall floors and barn aisles regularly for uneven spots or holes; do the same while walking your horse’s turnout area, keeping an eye out for any rocks or metal working its way up through the soil. Consider the placement of screw eyes in your horse’s stall. Is there anything that could be positioned in a safer way? When opening hay and straw bales, dispose of any twine or wire immediately. And watch out for low doorways or ceilings; they’re an open invitation to bumped heads!
Look, too, for areas in which a horse can get his foot, nose or head wedged—or get cast. A struggling horse, after all, is more inclined to hurt himself. Keep stabled horses busy with toys to discourage mischief, while ensuring that their feed tubs are removed between meals and that they can’t get hung up in their hay nets. Review your turnout arrangements and separate horses that don’t play nice. And when shipping an especially vulnerable individual, boots, head bumpers, tail wraps and quick-release ties are your best friends.
Healing the Hurt
The younger your accident-prone horse, the faster his boo-boos will generally heal—and the more likely he is to outgrow this phase. Then there are those chronic lightning rods that are perpetually covered with cuts and scrapes, despite all your best efforts. (Is your veterinarian on speed-dial yet?)
If the injury isn’t serious enough to warrant veterinary care, home care for these “special” equines begins with a well-stocked first aid kit. It goes without saying that gauze pads, veterinary wrap, medical tape, bandages, a thermometer and extra towels should be included in this kit, which should be kept handy and refilled as needed.
And don’t forget the wound ointment, arguably the most essential item in that kit. While antibiotic ointment used to be the old standby, most cuts or scrapes, once cleaned, can also benefit from natural, pH-balanced antimicrobial products that kill the “bad” bacteria but protect the “good” bacteria. These are gaining popularity because they are also gentle enough to protect the skin’s natural biome and help prevent scarring without resorting to harsh ingredients that can dry the skin.
Tip: When looking for a wound product, ointments generally adhere better than liquid sprays—but a few new formulas are also available in a spray gel that’s worth trying. Bonus points if you find one that contains a fly repellent, too! (Yep, the presence of winged pests can delay the healing of wounds or even cause infection.)