How to treat an open wound on a horse: Recommended by veterinarian

Horses are prone to injuries and we can’t help. No, we can. We can primarily help our riding mates to treat their open wounds for faster healing. We have a curated veterinarian recommended- a six-step guide on how to treat an open wound on a horse.

It is essential to contact a veterinarian for an overall assessment of the wound severity and to decide the treatment accordingly.

What are the Different Wounds in Horses?

Horses are prone to get injured. We can’t control the fall while sleeping. Neither we can hold them when crossing hurdles on the riding ground.

Here’s a wound-type guide for horses that would help you start the primary treatment based on the wound severity:

1. Scrapes: It is the most common injury in horses. It looks similar to the rashes, the skin over the scrape will shed off. Most of the minor scrapes heal well naturally. Only some getting inflamed more than usual or red would need proper wound management.

2. Lacerations: A cut or tear extending up to skin or flesh with any sharpened edges or object is called a laceration. Deeper lacerations may require the removal of extra dirt and foreign material, if any.

3. Abrasions: It is like the scrape on which skin will wear off. These wounds are easily manageable at home.

4. Puncture Wounds: These wounds result from sharp pointed objects like wire and nails, which may puncture the surface beneath the skin. These types of wounds need a proper inspection to subside the infection chances.

5. Deep cuts/wounds: These include puncture wounds which have the potential to be deeper than what appears on the surface. Larger and deeper cuts with some sharp wire or object need immediate treatment from the vet.

How to Treat an Open Wound on a Horse

1. Hemostasis - To check the Excess Bleeding From the Wound

If there is damage to a larger vessel or any artery, it will cause excess bleeding because of injury. If bleeding is normal, then chances are the wound is superficial and has harmed little tissue beneath it. Although hemostasis automatically starts in the body after the wound creation, excess bleeding may take hours to stop or reach the clotting stage.

  • Apply pressure to check the bleeding. You may use a small clean gauge over the open wound to apply pressure.
  • Use a bandage to close the wound to stop bleeding if it’s not in control by the finger pressure.
  • Avoid using any cauterizing agent before your vet.
  • Don’t overdo the rubbing while cleaning if wound edges are more compromised.

2. Inspect the Wound Thoroughly

The severity of the wound would depend on location, depth, the time elapsed being an open wound, and many other factors. Examine the animal for the exact location of the wound and the chances of getting an infection. Check if the horse is feeling more pain, then call a veterinarian with no delay.

After inspecting, you may use clean water or normal saline to clean the wound and surrounding area. Cleaning would remove the foreign particles and increase the visibility of the actual wound site.

3. Clipping the Hairs and Cleaning Edges Around the Wound

After making the horse calm and checking the bleeding, you may now proceed with the clipping of hairs around the wound. Removing the excess hair would increase the visibility. It decreases the chances of contamination of open wounds from dust and dirt present in surrounding fur.

4. Clean the Open Wound with Antiseptic

Soak a cotton swab or small gauge piece in the antiseptic solution diluted as per the manufacturer’s direction. You can use the Betadine solution for cleaning and flushing the wound (in a recommended dilution). 

5. Apply Antiseptic Cream

Apply triple antibiotic or Betadine ointment after cleaning it with an antiseptic solution (use the antiseptic ointment as per the availability). Don’t apply any antiseptic cream or gel over the exposed bone or joint because of the injury.

6. Apply Bandaging

Bandaging is rather optional. Bandaging would additionally help to keep the wound clean and stop the unmanageable bleeding.

After applying antiseptic cream, fix a sterile non-stick bandage over the wound surface. Another thin layer of gauze can help to fix this dressing firmly. The secondary layer should be a padding layer of cotton roll spread with even pressure. Apply the bandage as a last layer, providing compression to all the previous materials. Add a self-adhesive bandage over the tertiary layer for additional security.

Keep checking for foul smell or yellow pus discharge from the wound on the horse as it may show the infection. Keep the bandage in place for  2-3 days until the next dressing.


Q1 - How to treat a cut on a horse's leg?

Ans- Start by removing the extra dirt and cleaning with cold water. Check the bleeding with a compression bandage or pressure gauge. Wash it with an antiseptic solution by keeping the wound surface above the ground. Put some antiseptic ointment and call the vet to assess the severity.

Q2 - How long will it take for a cut to heal on a horse’s leg?

Ans- Both more or less severe wounds heal comparatively faster in horses. However, the horse’s leg doesn’t have enough soft tissue protection that can prevent injury incidences. Also, there is less blood supply, making the wound heal slower.

Q3 - What are the stages of wound healing in horses?

Ans- Wound healing stages include: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation or repair phase, and remodeling phase.


Having a horse is indeed a rewarding experience. Primary cleaning and dressing of wounds is necessary to prevent poor sequelae. You can prepare an equine first aid kit for treating minor cuts, abrasions, and scrapes on the horse.

The kit must contain an antiseptic solution, cotton roll, scissors, antiseptic ointment/gel, dressing material, thermometer, sterile gauge pieces, sterile non-stick bandages, self-adhesive bandages, and silver tape.

Use these materials to clean the wound, remove the debris, trim the hair around the wound, secure it with antiseptic ointment, and dress the open wound if it’s bleeding or deeper.

Call your vet after managing the open wound on your horse for further medication and deciding on an effective line of treatment.


Dr Akanksha Agnihotri is another animal lover like you cum veterinarian by profession. She has earned her B.V.Sc & AH from COVS & AH, Jabalpur, India. She has a knack for befriending animals/pets and treating them compassionately. She believes...