Are You Prepared for an Emergency?

Last fall I took the Equine Health & Disease Prevention course offered online through the University of Guelph. I highly recommend this course for anybody who has or plans to adopt a horse. It covers everything from the daily health check and how to effectively communicate with your veterinarian, to biosecurity awareness and an array of equine health conditions. The knowledge and resources I have acquired will prove to be invaluable in the future. In this post, I have compiled some of the key information related to emergency preparedness.

Having pertinent details, such as the horse’s medical information, normal vital signs, and the veterinarian’s phone number is essential when an emergency occurs. One must be able to clearly and calmly assess the situation, calm the distressed horse, and implement any emergency measures (i.e. stop excessive bleeding) and determine whether or not an immediate call to the vet is necessary. If it is, the call should be made as soon as possible to relay vital information, all while keeping the horse calm and administering any first-aid interventions the vet advises.


When an emergency occurs, SWIPER is a simple and effective acronym to remember the steps to follow in an emergency scenario. Post it in a central location and tuck a copy into the first-aid kit.

Scan the horse and environment
What is wrong?
Immediate needs…prioritize
Reassess and repeat

Reviewing SWIPER with everyone in the barn and running through a few scenarios together from time to time will serve as an effective tool in preparing everyone responsible for the day-to-day care of the horses for an emergency if and when one does occur, including borders, lessees, and students. Focus on a variety of equine emergencies and compile a record of hypothetical and real-life experiences for educational purposes.

This post on the l’écurie equine virtual farm covers 9 specific equine emergencies in detail, including observable signs, the degree of urgency, and first-aid steps. The emergencies covered are Choke · Colic · Ocular Trauma · Grain Overload · Heat Stroke · Hoof Puncture · Lacerations and Puncture Wounds · Sudden Onset Sever Lameness · Acute Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (tying-up).

Horse Information Sheets

To facilitate communication and proper care of each horse, a brief description of the horse and relevant contact information should be posted on each stall, or, in the case of group-housed horses, in a central common area. Place copies of each horse’s contact sheet in a binder in the tack or feed room and in the office. Keep backup files on a hard drive and update them as needed.

List the phone numbers of the owner, veterinarian, farrier, and perhaps a lessee or other person in case the owner is unavailable. Indicate whether the stable manager is authorized to make decisions regarding medical interventions on behalf of the owner, and include any medical history or extra care/caution that should be exercised when handling the horse.


HORSE Henry  
Birthdate: June 21, 2007 Age: 10

Colour: black/white  Breed: Shire/Paint/Warmblood  Sex: M
Distinguishing Markings: 17h black & white paint. He's hard to miss!

Comments: diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis (roaring) in May 2015

Normal Vital Signs:
Temperature:          Pulse:          Respiration:

OWNER   Natalie Ethier  Work #:           Cell #:  
Alternate Contact: Marsha Farmer,  Cell #: 

VETERINARIAN  Albert Horseford 
Office Phone #: 
Emergency/ After Hours #: 
FARRIER  Jane Barn, phone # 

Equestrian Insurance Brokers, phone # 
Horse Policy, policy #
First Aid Kits

Purchase or assemble a first-aid kit for the barn, as well as a copy of The Complete Equine Emergency Bible by Karen Coumbe.  It is wise to assemble at least two First-Aid kits; a fully stocked one for the barn, a smaller one to carry on trails for minor incidents that may occur while away from the barn, and if applicable, a third to keep in the trailer.

Kentucky Horse Council recommends using a bucket for a DIY portable First-Aid kit. This would be a suitable option for the barn and trailer. If using a bucket, make sure to store it in a cupboard or box where it will be protected from dust and dirt. A tool or tack box may be a better option.

The trail kit should contain a hoof pick & knife, at least 1 bandage, antiseptic spray, bailing twine, emergency contact phone numbers, and band-aids for personal use. Store this in a waterproof bag to tuck into a saddle bag or backpack.

Being prepared for an emergency will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome for your horse!