Treating an Injury

There are many things a horse owner can do for their horse that may not require a veterinarian. However, it is best to have an established relationship with a veterinarian before any kind of medical care is needed for your horse. Routine wellness exams allow the veterinarian to get to know your horse making it easier to receive treatment advice over the phone for minor injuries.

Applying Leg Bandages

The best all purpose wrap for the lower limb (for wound protection or support of an injured limb) is practical roll cotton roll, approximately 1 foot wide. Wrap it two layers thick around the limb. The bottom of the cotton should be just above the coronet band and the top of the cotton should be just under the knee or the hock. It can be held in place with a layer of brown cling gauze and covered with 4″ Vet Wrap. When wrapping with stretch material such as Vet Wrap it is important to apply even pressure around the bandaged limb. Avoid areas where the wrap binds and can cause a loss of circulation. With 2 layers of cotton it is usually safe to snug up the stretch wraps sufficiently to provide support for the limb. Change the bandage daily unless instructed otherwise.

Watch for signs of discomfort such as stomping the foot or chewing at the bandage. If these behaviors persist, remove the bandage and reapply it, taking extra care to ensure it is not too tight.

When applying a leg bandage to a cut leg, it is best to apply a non stick pad such as a telfa pad to keep the bandage from adhering to sensitive tissue. A leg bandage may be applied while waiting for the veterinarian to arrive, it provides support for the damaged tissue and prevents contamination with dirt and flies. A wound that is not to be sutured can be wrapped with antiseptic ointments applied to the telfa pad. Common ointments include nitrofurazone ointment or nolvasan ointment. Other wound medications may enhance the formation of proud flesh in the wound, consult your veterinarian before treating wounds.


These medications are designed to be used to massage pain and swelling, reduce adhesions, and improve blood flow to the affected tissue. They usually contain camphor, oils, and alcohol. They do not work well when just poured on. They should be massaged into the tissue. Excessive rubbing or application under a bandage may result in severe skin irritation.

It is best not to apply liniments under a bandage unless it states on the label it is safe to do so.


These agents act by drawing fluid from tissue near the surface of the body. They usually contain a pasty material such as Denver Mud, Fullers earth, or kaolin poultice. They tend to limit inflammation and soreness. They can generally be left on the skin under a bandage. Beware of excessive skin moisture with some poultices.

Application of Heat

Heat can be applied to tissue by conductive heat such as hot water bottle or a commercial product that produces heat when activated, or radiant heat such as an infrared lamp. Heat is useful when tissues need to heal in an area where there is older damage. It causes dilation of blood vessels and increases delivery of oxygen to the area.

Application of heat is usually combined with movement of the affected limb.

Heat should not be applied if infection is present.

Heat should not be applied to new or recent injuries (24-48 hrs.)

Application of Cold

Cold is used when injuries are new, to control the products of inflammation and reduce pain & swelling. Cold is best combined with bandageing and rest to further limit swelling and tissue damage. Cold should be applied for the first 24 hours after a traumatic injury.

Cold can safely be applied for 20-40 min. intervals with at least one hour between repeat applications.

Cold can be applied using hose water, ice, or commercial products that produce cold when activated.

Remember: Wounds on the leg below the knees or hocks are prone to formation of proud flesh which slows wound healing and increases scar formation. Certain bandaging techniques and certain medications can increase the risk of proud flesh forming in the wound.

Always consider your own safety when working around your horse. When bandaging, taking the pulse, respiratory rate, and temperature, or giving medication be prepared for unusual behavior such as kicking or head throwing. You cannot help your horse if you get hurt yourself!

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Reata Equine Veterinary

Reata Equine Veterinary Group is a full-service mobile equine-only veterinary practice in Southern Arizona dedicated to providing the best medical and wellness care for your horse.

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If you call the office with an emergency during regular hours our friendly staff will listen to your emergency and provide immediate help. If the emergency happens after hours, call (520) 749-1446 and the answering machine will connect you to the veterinarian on call so that you receive the help you need.

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