Your horse has sustained a wound. You ask yourself: How serious is it? Can I clean, bandage and treat it? Is it an emergency? Will my horse be disfigured or lame after it heals? Should my vet see it now or later? Can I manage it myself?
Whatever you choose to do, it is best to talk to your vet as soon as you notice the wound. After you provide them with as much information as possible about the wound (including a photo), they can tell you about the advantages, disadvantages, and cost of different approaches.
Halter your horse. Does the horse's general attitude and appetite seem ok? If there is any doubt, perform the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) first.
Now evaluate the wound without touching it. Where is it located? How large and deep does it appear to be? Do you know when it happened? Is it still bleeding or is there any other discharge (pus or fluid) coming out of it? Is a scab forming, or do you notice bumpy red tissue around the edges of the wound? Is there swelling around the wound? Is the horse lame and, if so, how lame?
Next, make contact with your horse far away from the location of the wound. Gradually and gently work your hands closer to the wound noting whether your horse reacts as you touch nearer to the wound. If you are able to touch the wound, is there a flap of skin? If so, can you gently elevate it and look under it? What do you see? Foreign material, bone? Share all of the information that you have gathered with your vet.
Tips for safety & Success
Do not struggle to evaluate or touch a wound if it appears to cause your horse excess stress or pain. If this is the case, your vet may sedate or use local anesthetic to numb the injured area before evaluation.
Do not assume that large bloody wounds are serious or that small self-contained wounds are minor. Often the opposite is true. Whether critical structures are involved is the key question.
Wear latex gloves to reduce contamination of wounds by our skin bacteria.