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What should I do first?

If your horse has sustained a cut or wound the most important thing to do is to stop the bleeding. This can be done by applying direct pressure to the wound using a clean piece of Gamgee roll or cotton wool, either held or bandaged in place until the bleeding has stopped or your veterinarian has arrived. Tourniquets are less favored now because of the risk of causing thromboses (blood clots) in the veins and arteries. If there is a foreign material protruding from the wound, pressure should be applied immediately above and around the wound. This can be done by hand or where possible by creating a ring of bandaging material so that pressure can be applied to the surround area without applying any more pressure to the foreign body. If this is small and can safely be removed, it is best removed. Always tell your veterinarian if you have removed a foreign body, and keep it for his examination, as he will wish to make sure that no more are left more deeply in the wound.

If an artery or vein has been cut it may take 20 minutes to half an hour for bleeding to stop. In some cases of arterial bleeding, this cannot be stopped until the artery has been clamped or tied off by a veterinarian and in such cases it is important to continue to apply pressure till he or she arrives. Once bleeding has stopped or if the wound has not bled excessively it should e cleaned to reduce the risk of infection. Be gentle and careful not to re-start the bleeding. Liberal dowsing with water, using a hose, is effective at flushing off dirt and debris and helping to minimize swelling and inflammation. Cold water also helps to stop bleeding.

Minor wounds can be cleansed using a dilute solution of disinfectant. If the wound is in an amenable area, a non-stick dressing should be applied, covered with a piece of cotton wool or Gamgee roll and held in place by a self adhesive bandage. If the wound is large or deep or there has been extensive bleeding your veterinarian should be called. While waiting for your veterinarian the wound should be left covered where possible. Wounds on the upper limbs, body and head, not amenable to bandaging, should just be cleaned and left open or continually cold-hosed. Do not apply wound powder or ointment just in case the wound needs stitching, unless your veterinarian is going to be delayed. In this situation it would be helpful to cover the wound with anti-bacterial ointment such as Betadine or Savlon just to keep the tissues soft and help prevent them from drying out. Some improvisation may be called for in the presence of large skin flaps such as those that may occur on the belly or upper limb. With these wounds it may be necessary to try to use clean towels or sheets held in place with bandaging materials just to try to prevent further damage occurring to the skin and underlying tissues.