Joints injured by sprain or collision should be supported by whatever in the way of a bandage the horseman can contrive. A stocking is the most serviceable garment, which with the aid of a penknife may be made double the length. First aid in joint injuries often consists in the patience requisite to wait for an ambulance. An injury capable of being cured may be, and often is, rendered hopeless by making the patient walk a long distance, when the nearest stable should in any case be the longest journey the animal should be induced to take.
Where, after a fall or collision, blood is found to be flowing from the nostrils, the mouth, or other orifices, the patient should not be moved until it is ascertained if the fluid is from a large artery or vein, superficial and unimportant, or deeply seated and serious. By its colour and volume the horseman may be able to decide, and, while waiting for skilled assistance, render first aid by the application of cold water to the head, loins, or other parts.
In every kind of injury in which dirt or other foreign matter is present, as in the eye, an effort should be made to remove it without waiting for the surgeon. If antiseptics (such as are now to be found in every household) are not at hand, then clean water may be used.
Of the many accidents which horses are liable to meet with in the field and upon the road, it is impossible to treat fully in this chapter, and the more important injuries and diseases are elsewhere treated at length. We cannot, however, leave this branch of the subject of first aid, without reference to the comparatively frequent accident in low-lying districts of horses getting into ditches or drains and failing to extricate themselves. The usual bump of locality, which is a horse's strongest point, often fails him here, for though he may not fall, but deliberately walk into a ditch, he forgets how to return, and, wandering hopelessly up and down in the deep mud, becomes exhausted and chilled, so that he soon succumbs if not released from his unfortunate predicament.
If he is discovered while able to make an effort, the first thing to do is to administer a stimulant while sending for ropes and another horse. He. may be in mid-stream, but can be reached by placing a ladder or gate across or into it. A halter should be put on, and if there is room to turn him, and the shelving portion of the bank not so far off but that the almost exhausted animal could walk to it, he should be carefully led, with words of encouragement, to the spot. He may, taking hope again, have sufficient strength to get out when the opportunity is presented to him, and especially if assisted by a rope passed under the buttocks. Rare, indeed, is it to meet with any bad result from the apparently barbarous plan of roping the neck and pulling on it with great force. The ligaments of this part are very powerful, as will be remembered, and the animal no doubt adds resistance to the strain by rendering the muscles rigid and so bracing up the bones. We know that when suddenly applied while the animal is unprepared, less force has caused a broken neck; for instance, when frightened in a forge, a horse has been known to break his neck by throwing himself back in the halter. In urgent cases, roping the neck should be resorted to without hesitation, even though the power of a horse be required to extricate the unfortunate animal from his awkward position.
Collapse is a condition calling for first aid. It is usually the result of some serious injury, and may be recognized by pallor of the membranes, coldness of the skin, sighing, trembling, reeling, and anxiety of countenance. When the result of previous illness, loss of blood, or serious injury, any alcoholic stimulant will prove serviceable, but whisky is to be preferred if at hand. The reader may be reminded that water is a restorative too often forgotten in cases of collapse. It quickly fills up the vessels, and if the patient will not drink it it should in that case be administered by the drenching-bottle - not, however, if the animal is unconscious. In that state any attempt to administer fluids by the mouth involves danger of suffocating the patient, and must be abandoned.
Cold affusions to the head are also restoratives, and, as we have pointed out elsewhere, are commonly employed to re-establish consciousness after chloroform has been given to the extent of producing total anaesthesia.
Much of the first aid required by horses belongs neither to the department of medicine nor that of surgery, but to practical horse management and the tact of experience.
Much of the damage done to or by a runaway occurs after the animal has come to the ground, and the horseman should learn to control an animal in this position, and know the quickest way in which to release a fallen horse, whether in single or double harness. It should be borne in mind that, in any kind of trace-harness, both traces are set at liberty by undoing the hame-strap. A horse fallen in ordinary single harness should have first the breeching-strap undone and passed through the back-band (he will most likely be lying on the buckle of the other side). It is not essential that the belly-band should be released, though better to do so if time permits, but with the names and breeching undone he can get up readily.
First aid to the sick among horses generally consists in obtaining for them a suitable environment, removal from the field, or from the companionship of others, the provision of an airy loose-box, the preparation of an abundant supply of hot water, bandages, gruel, poultices, etc, which will be found fully dealt with in the chapter on nursing.
Sick or injured horses incapable of travelling on their own feet are usually conveyed in "floats" or bullock carts, the floors being near the ground, and thus facilitating ingress and egress.