An ill horse is every owner’s worst nightmare, but if your horse is boarded at a large barn or if they became seriously sick, would you know what to do? Would you be prepared to handle it? Now is the time to lay out a plan of action – just in case.
How quickly would you discover that your horse was sick? Do you check on him in person daily, or do you have a reliable friend or barn owner who does? If you or your horse’s caretaker notices something amiss, then taking your horse’s vital signs is an important first step in evaluating his condition. It’s important that you or the caretaker has a baseline to compare his vitals to; take his resting pulse, respiration, and temperature multiple times to establish these baseline vitals, and post them in an area where they’ll be accessible in an emergency, such as in a first aid kit.
Along with your horse’s baseline vitals, other important information to keep in your first aid kit includes your veterinarian’s phone number and the locations and phone numbers of the nearest equine hospitals. Also be sure that your equine first aid kit includes a thermometer, and if it is a digital thermometer, keep fresh batteries on hand.
If your horse needed to be hospitalized, do you have a truck and trailer which are ready to go, or do you need to borrow one from a friend? If so, make those arrangements now. If you own your own truck and trailer, check that the lights are all working, the tires are filled safe for use, and that the truck has enough gas in it to at least get you to a gas station if necessary.
How are your horse’s trailer loading manners? If they’re rusty, now is the time to brush up on them. Work with him until he loads easily, and give him frequent refresher courses to keep the loading process smooth.
Hopefully your horse won’t need to be hospitalized, but you will need to separate him from other horses to prevent the spread of disease. This may be easier said than done, depending on the setup and size of your barn, so now is the time to give thought to how you would do this, should the problem arise. Ideally having a separate horse stall and turnout area, even if it’s a run-in shed that you can temporarily use for a stall, will allow you to keep your other horses safe.
Dealing with a sick horse is never fun, but if you prepare ahead of time you can make the experience easier on you both and ensure that your horse receives the best care possible, quickly.