Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA – A diverse group of over 75 horse enthusiasts attended the Equine Emergency & First Aid Clinic on January 10, directed by one of Southern California’s leading horsemanship programs, Cowboy Boot Camp, based in Rolling Hills Estates. 

A number of emergency topics and step-by-step procedures were addressed including how to respond if your horse shows signs of abdominal problems; how to care for a laceration, puncture wound and eye trauma; how to administer medications; the proper technique to wrap a leg in case of emergency; and how to obtain a horse’s vital signs.  One recurring concern by many attendees was what important data your vet needs to know prior to their arrival.

“Despite their size and weight, horses are nature’s delicate creatures and if you’re a horse owner, or someone who’s planning for horse ownership, you should be prepared for an equine emergency,” explained Jim Moore of Cowboy Boot Camp.  “Unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen when you're on the trail or when you and your horse are at a remote location or at a time when a vet might not be available.  A horse depends upon his human companion to make him feel better or possibly even save his life.” 

The seminar was also conducted by Los Angeles County-based equine veterinary practitioner Dr. Sylvia Greenman.  “Horse emergencies can be a challenging and emotionally charged situation for owners,” she said.  “However, with preparedness clinics such as Cowboy Boot Camp’s, problems can be reduced by educating owners on how to respond quickly and confidently to equine emergency situations.” 

Nothing can be more frustrating for a veterinarian than to receive an emergency call when actually it is a minor situation.  Some of the more common conditions and illnesses were explained and what specifics constitutes “life-threatening.”  But, if you aren’t sure, call your vet and provide them with the proper details then let them make the determination.

Given their natural behavioral instincts of curiosity and flight, cuts, scrapes and lacerations are just a part of a horse’s life.  So, unless a large vessel is cut such as the jugular vein or a large artery, it is unlikely your horse will bleed to death, so Dr. Greenman stressed that owners not panic over the sight of blood.  All horses tend to be accident-prone, even in the most secure environments; therefore, preparation is vital when confronted with a medical emergency.

Another frightening issue that confronts horse owners is colic, which can range from mild to severe, but it should never be ignored.   Many conditions that cause colic can become life-threatening in a relatively short period of time.  Recognizing the symptoms of colic can be difficult and may vary between individuals and severity.  Immediate action is perhaps the most critical aspect for successful treatment. 

Among the most common signs of colic explained during the clinic were the turning the head toward the flank and biting at the abdomen and pawing; stretching out as if to urinate without doing so; repeatedly lying down and getting up; violent rolling;, lack of bowel movement; absence of, or reduced digestive sounds, rapid respiration and elevated pulse rate; and sweating.

What was most gratifying about the event, according to Moore, was the positive feedback received from the attendees.  “Most everyone participated in discussions and had an opportunity to participate in the demonstrations then left feeling more secure in an important part of their horsemanship education.  They were able to use a stethoscope on a horse, observe the giving of an injection and practice wrapping a lacerated leg.  We also prepared numerous pages of handouts and illustrations for them to take home for future reference.”  

Other upcoming Cowboy Boot Camp clinics and events include, a “Body Shaving Clinic” on Saturday, February 7, where they’ll show you the procedures to clip and body shave your horse and add a nice design to show off you and your horse’s unique personality.  On Sunday, March 8, is their Farrier “No Feet, No Horse” Clinic, which will address more than just the study of the horse’s foot, trimming & shoeing, but also the injuries and application of special shoes as well as what to look for if you’re planning to purchase a horse.  Additional clinics in coming months are “Tack Fitting,” “Proper Lounging Techniques for Exercise & Correction;” “Pre-purchase Vet Check,” “Equine Dentistry,” “Bit Clinic;” and many more.  

Since they began offering trail riding excursions and lessons in 2003, Cowboy Boot Camp’s Jim Moore and Lori Barnett noticed that the majority of their riders wanted to learn as much about horsemanship as taking riding lessons.  While most people don’t have the time to go work on a ranch in Wyoming or have enough experience to receive the full benefits of advanced clinicians such as Chris Cox, John Lyons or Julie Goodnight, Jim and Lori decided to fill a niche by offering a program where people could learn horsemanship without leaving Los Angeles.  Offered daily in the picturesque South Bay community of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, many of the men and women who are members of Cowboy Boot Camp plan to own a horse in the future or want to develop better riding proficiency.

According to Christine Lord, one of over 250 Cowboy Boot Campers, “I’ve been a member for almost a year and while I currently don’t own a horse, this program prepares me for what’s ahead when I’m ready for my own.”

Attendees hone skills from tacking a horse to equine care and maintenance to rider/horse safety, all conducted in a private, horse barn setting.  Not designed as a pony camp or a weeklong cram session, students learn at their own speed depending upon their own time, availability and means.  “Some people are here several times weekly while others can only make it once a month.  We work within your schedule,” said Jim Moore.  “But, our goals are the same, to teach the importance of well-rounded, practical horsemanship and help you develop the skills and confidence to ride anywhere.”

For more information about Cowboy Boot Camp and the services they provide, visit:  
Cowboy Boot Camp is a registered trademark of Equine Experiences & Cowboy Boot Camp, LLC

In the event of an emergency, it is important to be prepared to care for your horses until the veterinarian arrives.  Every horse owner should have at least one equine first aid kit available in their barn; for those who trailer their horses frequently, we also suggest keeping a smaller kit in your trailer as well. We recommend the following contents for each first aid kit:
Store your emergency items in a sturdy box with a good fitting clasp and a handle. A fishing tackle box will work and include in writing the items contained in your emergency kit. Note the expiration date of any ointments or drugs such as Bute and Banamine. Latex gloves are also good to have on hand.
Pack cotton rolls of gauze bandage, large gauze squares, and also cotton sheet leg wraps. 
Flannel wraps for wrapping a knee, unscented sanitary sheet cotton for wound dressings, and self-sticking first aid bandage, such as Vetrap for proper bandaging. Add splint material, such as a 3 inch long PVC pipe. 
Include towels. They are useful not only for wound control of the animal but will also permit you to clean up yourself and the horse. 
Instant cold packs for the application to an injury are essential; duct tape will hold them in place – can also work as a foot wrap.  A horse blanket or stable quilt will help in case of shock. 
Add a rectal thermometer that already has a fishing line threaded through one end, and attached to a clothespin. Plastic digital models are safer to use around the barn than glass-mercury types.  A stethoscope is a good idea, but make sure you ask a veterinarian about what you should be listening to. 
Scissors are a staple of an emergency kit. One pair should have a wide, blunt end, while the other is small and pointed. 
Forceps and tweezers as well as a small flashlight will help you to remove objects from a cut or puncture wound. Wire cutters are also a good idea, especially since many times a horse may become entangled in a bit of fencing. Also add wound wash and antibiotic ointment and antiseptic scrub such as Betadine or Nolvasan, available in sterile sponges. 
Saline solution or hydrogen peroxide in a squirt bottle for cleaning fresh wounds 
Other odds and ends to include are insect repellants, ointments for hoof dressing, rubbing alcohol and premoistened alcohol wipes for disinfecting, poultices, electrolytes for treatment of shock or colic, Epsom salts for hoof pain, a hoof pick, a shoe puller, and dose syringes. Different sizes are indicated for the various uses, so it is best to have a few on hand. 
Always have your primary and secondary veterinarian’s phone numbers posted as well as a local vet if you’re traveling to a location away from your regular stable area.
You should be comfortable with the use of ALL the items in your kit.  If you do not know how to give your horse a shot or how to properly wrap a leg - consult with your veterinarian or a Cowboy Boot Camp instructor.  In our clinics, we practice these skills often so that in an emergency you will be able to respond with ease and confidence.

           Additional references: American Association of Equine Practitioners 
©Equine Experiences & Cowboy Boot Camp, LLC;

THE EQUESTRIAN NEWS   February/March 2009
What Every Horse Wants His Owner to Know