It’s never a good idea to tempt fate by horseback riding on a trail ride without a first-aid kit. So the folks at The Trail Rider magazine put together a list of trail riding must-haves that would make any boy scout proud.
Without further ado, here’s their list, telling you what to pack and how to use it for survival, repairs, first-aid for horses, first-aid for riders and more.
Tip: Review this list with your veterinarian for more information on how to use each item, and to see whether he or she has any further suggestions.
- First-aid saddlebag. Designate a saddlebag exclusively for first-aid items. Choose one designed to fit over the saddlehorn or attach on a front D-ring. Keeping items in front of the saddle helps your horse better balance the weight, and you’ll have easy access to your first-aid items during your ride. Tip: Find or make a first-aid emblem to iron on your designated saddlebag, for visibility. Shown: Medium Horn Bag from Cashel (www.cashelcompany.com).
- Multipurpose tool. A good multipurpose tool can help you cut through wire or leather, pull splinters, act as a hoofpick in a pinch, cut bandages—and even saw through small timber. Splurge on a medium to large tool made by a reputable company. Find one with at least a knife, a file and pliers. Shown: The Blast from Leatherman (www.leatherman.com).
- Emergency Blanket. A lightweight, reflective emergency blanket uses your own body heat to help keep you warm if you’re stranded on the trail, exposed to cold water or suffer an injury resulting in shock. Most models roll up to the size of your fist. Shown: One-person Emergency Bivvy from Adventure Medical Kits (www.adventuremedicalkits.com).
- Flashlight. A flashlight can help you find your way in the dark or find tools you need as the light fades. It can also help you see to analyze wounds. Consider a flashlight with a windup, rechargeable battery so you don’t have to pack extra power. Shown: Wind ’N Go Flashlight from Athena Brands (www.athenabrands.com).
- Duct tape. This all-purpose tape can help you keep a horse or human’s bandage in place, tape on a loose shoe or help pack a hoof to help your horse get back to the trailer. You can also repair tack in a pinch. Shown: Scotch’s 3M Duct Tape (www.3M.com).
- Baling twine. Your use-around-the-barn baling twine is also useful on the trail. Tie up a broken headstall, reattach a rein, etc. If you lack a lead rope, you can even use a long piece to help pony another horse if a rider is injured. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store or store up your own collection after feeding time.
- Hoof boots. If you don’t outfit your horse in boots on every trail ride, make sure you have a pair in your pack in case of a thrown shoe or hoof injury. The boot will protect the hoof, hold bandaging material in place and keep your horse’s injury clean on the way home. Shown: Cavallo’s Simple Boot (www.cavallo-inc.com).
- Digital thermometers. Monitor a sick or injured horse, or take a rider’s temperature to check for overheating, fever or shock. Invest in two, and label separately for horse and rider. Make sure that the thermometers go to 107 degrees Fahrenheit to accommodate horses’ higher temperatures. Normal human temperature is 98.6 degrees F; normal equine temperature is 98 to 100 degrees F. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
- Hoofpick. This handy grooming tool helps you pick out your horse’s hooves if he’s got pain-causing rocks embedded in them. It can also help you pry open food cans in a pinch. Choose a sturdy hoofpick that doesn’t bend easily. Shown: The Ultimate Hoofpick Jr. (www.ultimatehoofpick.com).
- Large freezer bags. Choose resealable bags so you can pack out waste easily. Clean bags also work to haul water, serve as a bucket to soak your horse’s feet, help dress wounds, etc. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
- Veterinary bandage/wrap. A roll of the stretchy, sticky wrap helps keep horse and human bandages in place. Place over gauze squares or diapers to help keep open wounds clean and bound with pressure to help stop bleeding. Shown: PowerFlex by Andover (www.quickmedical.com/veterinary-products.html)
- Tongue depressors. We found these at a discount store sold as craft sticks. The wooden sticks will give you a clean way to apply ointment to a wound. They can also be used to splint a rider’s finger. (Use with vet wrap or clean hand towels and/or duct tape.) Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
- Four-inch gauze squares. Pre-cut squares of four-by-four-inch gauze come in sterilized and nonsterilized packages. Opt for a pack of both. These bandages can hold antibiotic ointment against a wound and allow some airflow. They can also act as padding under other wraps and to apply medication. We found a small hiker’s first-aid kit that included a small pair of scissors. Shown: 1-2 People First Aid by Adventure Medical Kits (www.adventuremedicalkits.com); Johnson & Johnson’s Hospital Grade Gauze Pads, available at any pharmacy.
- Diapers. Diapers keep antibiotic salve against a wound and can help stop bleeding for horse or human. They are especially handy for cuts on a horse’s leg. They also can be used as temporary foot padding to help a horse that’s lost a shoe or suffered a hoof injury. Secure with vet wrap or duct tape. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
- Hand towels. A clean towel wipes off sweat and can wrap a larger wound. It can also serve as a temporary human arm splint. And if you’re near fire, a wet towel can help protect your nasal passages. A wet towel can also cool an overheated human or horse. Send your clean-but-older bathroom hand towels to your kit.
- Wet wipes. Clean a small wound or wash up before and after giving first-aid with wet wipes. Store them in a plastic bag with a zipper so they don’t dry out. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
- Benadryl (diphenhydramine). This over-the-counter medication is great to have with you in case of horse or human allergic reactions (bee stings, etc.). For humans, liquid forms can act quickly. Ask your veterinarian about when and how much to give to your horse. Shown: Benadryl (www.benadryl.com)
- Insect repellent. Keep repellent on hand in case you trek through infested areas or are out at dusk during mosquito season. Opt for a natural brand unless you ride in the deep woods. Shown: Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus Plant-based Insect Repellent (www.repel.com)
- Betadine. Commonly sold as Bactine, the disinfectant/antiseptic is useful for flushing out a cut/scrape/wound on horse or human. It’s especially recommended if the wound is contaminated with dirt or mud. If a wound is dirty, first rinse with water or contact lens solution, then apply Betadine, rinse with water and apply an antibiotic ointment and wound dressing. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
- Sunscreen. Carry sunscreen in case your riding buddies forget to put it on or so that you can reapply on the trail. If you ride through water or on hot days, it’s good to reapply often. Shown: Aloe Gator Sunscreen, available at REI (www.rei.com)
- Triple antibiotic ointment. Apply Neosporin or similar ointment to prevent infection of a wound and help facilitate healing. Opt for the pain-relief option to help humans feel better fast. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
- Water. In addition to warding off dehydration and heat stroke, water is great to wash out wounds. Make sure to have pure, clean water with you at all times. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store.
- Ibuprofen. Have it on hand for human (not horse) use in case of injury or a fall to help reduce swelling. Use any brand on sale at your local discount store. —by Dr. Robin E. Smith with Heidi Nyland for The Trail Rider.
Robin E. Smith, DVM (www.yellowhorsevet.com), attended North Carolina State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1989, and her doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1995. She’s a lifelong equestrian, with more than 38 years of personal equestrian experience.
Heidi Nyland (www.wholepicture.org) is a lifelong horsewoman, writer and photographer based in Longmont, Colorado.