Cats may have nine lives and dogs have a nose for sniffing out trouble, but barrel horses tend to be in a class all their own when it comes to needing nursing. Not only that, it seems as if injuries occur when you are hauling hard to make it to the next rodeo or barrel race. This is why a well-stocked vet kit is an invaluable tool for barrel racers both at home and on the road when emergencies and accidents strike.

Vet kits should include the essentials necessary to help horse owners cope with unforeseen circumstances until a veterinarian can attend to the situation.  Colic, wounds, and allergic reactions to an insect bite are just a few things owners should be prepared to deal with at home or away. A fully equipped arsenal stocked to help you administer equine first-aid will give you a leg up until professional help arrives.

Most barrel racers find that their vet kit is dynamic in nature, changing when expired items are tossed out or when bandages, syringes and the like are restocked. It’s important to check your vet kit several times annually for expired medications and items that could or should be considered out of date. Be aware of temperature restrictions on certain items such as pharmaceuticals. Some must be refrigerated while other items can’t withstand extreme cold. There is nothing worse than running to your vet kit in an emergency only to find that the game-changing medication expired a year ago.

According to WPRA barrel racer Paige Conrado, Hudson, Colo., it’s better to be safe than sorry when emergencies strike at home, but especially on the road.

“We keep the basics on hand, such as Bute, Banamine, dexamethazone, and penicillin. We never leave home without electrolytes. We also mix up our own muscle liniment to cool our horses’ legs after a hard workout and help prevent injuries. We use DMSO and rubbing alcohol. We use it in a sweat or lather it on after a workout. It works really well for us,” explained Conrado. “I also keep Lasix on hand because my rodeo mare is a bleeder and that is what we have the most success with to keep her comfortable and from bleeding while hauling and during a run.”

Conrado stressed the importance of being aware of the consequences of misdiagnosing an injury or illness.

“We always call our veterinarians. We use Littleton Equine Medical Center while in Colorado and Brazos Valley Equine Hospital while in Texas when we have a problem. The worst thing you can do is misdiagnose a problem and make it worse.”

Handy Extras

As much as we wish we could, we cannot fit our regular veterinarians into our vet kits, nor other helpful yet size-restrictive items. A few things that might not fit in your vet kit but are nonetheless helpful to have on hand in the barn, trailer or both in case of emergency are listed below. Consider assembling one vet kit for the barn and a second for the truck or trailer. A mini-kit to take with you when going on a long ride is wise, too. The latter can contain just the basics for both horse and human—Band-Aids, gauze, Vetrap, sunblock, hoof pick, Tylenol and a cell phone.

  • Clean fly mask to protect an injured eye
  • A twitch to divert your horse’s attention while you doctor his injuries
  • A protective boot to keep an injury to the hoof or coronet band clean, or to use in case of an abscess
  • Several clean buckets designated for first-aid use only
  • Hoof testers to help diagnose soreness

Must Haves

Charlie Buchanan, DVM, of Brazos Valley Equine Hospital in Stephenville, Texas, compiled a list of important items to keep in your vet kit in case of an emergency.

  • Banamine paste or injectable. When using pharmaceuticals, it is very important to follow the instructions of the prescribing veterinarian for proper administration. Drugs should be administered only in consultation with your veterinarian. Never attempt to self-diagnose.
  • Phenylbutazone (Bute) paste
  • Dexamethazone. This will come in handy if your horse has an allergic reaction. As previously stated above, be sure you know how to properly use this medication. If not, ask your veterinarian.
  • Syringes (3ml, 12ml, 35ml, 60ml)
  • Needles (18G x ½” and 20G x ½”). Larger gauge needles are for use with medications that have higher viscosity.
  • Sterile saline solution
  • Betadine or Nolvasan solution
  • Nitrofurazone
  • Quilted wraps and polo wraps
  • Vetrap
  • Elastikon elastic tape
  • Sheet cotton
  • Non-latex gloves. You never know who may have to use your kit, and a human with a latex reaction isn’t a factor you want to add to an already stressful situation.
  • Rolled gauze
  • Zinc oxide cream
  • Antiseptic cream or ointment
  • Diapers, duct tape, and Epsom salt for a make-shift bandage in case of an hoof abscess.
  • Ichthammol drawing salve
  • Poultice to treat inflammation or soreness.
  • Penicillin. When using penicillin, be aware that it has to be administered with a larger gauge needle and cannot be given in one area repeatedly. If you have any questions, it’s advisable to ask your veterinarian to give the penicillin.
  • Sulfamethoxazole trimethoprim (SMZ) tablets
  • Triple antibiotic eye ointment
  • Table salt for use on feed to stimulate thirst and help prevent dehydration.
  • Mercury or digital thermometer
  • Surgical scissors to cut wraps, gauze, etc.
  • Extra hoof picks
  • Permanent marker
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Books. There are a number of great veterinary first-aid books available today. Buy one and familiarize yourself with it before an emergency happens. Another book you’ll want to keep handy is a small notebook to keep track of temperatures or patient observations that your vet needs to know when he arrives on scene.
  • Last but certainly not least, keep a current contact list of emergency phone numbers, including that of your regular veterinarian(s) and insurance provider. Keep these on speed dial. Remember, veterinarians are doctors and can be hard to reach. When you find yourself in an emergency, you may not have time to wait, so keep a few options on hand.

Do it Yourself

Routine maintenance often requires creative solutions and Paige Conrado has found one such remedy that works well for she and her barrel racing family.

“My dad taught us how to make our own ice boots,” explained Conrado. “We take an old pair of jeans and cut them off at the knees or whatever length we need. Then we cut holes in the bottom to run a lace through (you can also cut holes at the top). Pull the pant leg over your horse’s leg, secure on top or bottom or both and dump the ice in. Depending on how snug you want the boot to be, we have also cut a hole at the top of the pant leg and run a soft rope through it, over the horse’s withers and secured it on the other leg to help keep the wrap up. We use these homemade wraps all the time, in the trailer and out of the trailer. They work great!”

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