Thursday, December 12, 2013

Checking Your Horse's Vital Signs

 One of the most important ways to check your horse's health is to observe his vital signs. These include pulse, respiration, temperature, and capillary refill time, the latter being how long it takes for color to return to the gums when you put pressure on them.

 The normal temperature of a resting horse should be around 99 to 101 F(37.2 to 38.3 C). His heart should beat 36 to 40 times a minute, he should take 8 to 16 breathes a minute, and his capillary refill time should two or less seconds. Also, in a healthy horse, the gut should make a wide range of sound.

 It is important to take your horse's temperature when he is resting, since horses get hotter when they exercise. Start by taking a thermometer, tying a long string securely to it, and insert it rectally, being careful not o get kicked. Wait a few minutes for the thermometer to get an accurate reading. Mercury ones take as long as three minutes, while digital ones can work as quickly as one minute. If you are uncertain, waiting a little longer never hurts. Just remember to keep a tight grip on the string. In a healthy horse, the temperature should read around 99 F, though you should not be concerned if it is a little bit lower. If it is higher however, the horse may be running a fever so you should call the vet. When you are done, make sure to clean the thermometer thoroughly.
You can check your horse's pulse using the artery on the leg.

 A healthy, resting horse's pulse should be around 36 to 40 beats per minute. When taking the pulse, you may want to set a timer so you accurately measure it. Start by finding the main artery in the cheek and press inward and upward at the same time. If you don't feel the pulse there, try the artery on the inside of the leg, just under the knee.
Another way to check the pulse is by using the artery in the cheek.

 To check a horse's respiration, stand next to his shoulder and watch his flank and stifle joint carefully. Every time they go in and out, count the breath. An average respiration is 8 to 16 breaths per minute, though it can vary depending on the size of the horse. ALso, make sure to check whether his breathing is labored or shallow. If so, call the vet.

 You can check you horse's hydration by two ways: capillary refill time and a pinch test. The first is more reliable and involves pressing the horse's gum and checking to see how log it takes for the color to return. it should take only two seconds. Three or more should be a cause for concern and the vet should be called. While doing the test, check the color of the gum too. It should be bright pink, not pale yellow, dark red, or blue.

 Another test you can do is pinching the skin above your horse's shoulder and seeing how long it takes for the pinched skin to flatten, which should happen right away. This test been disproved, though.

 A final way to check your horse's health is gut sounds by putting your ear to his stomach. There should be a wide range of sounds. Silence usually means colic.


  1. Good post :) this is something every horse owner needs to know.

    1. Thank you. Yes, it is very important for people who own/work with horses to know. It is one way to see how healthy your horse is.

  2. Great info! Thanks for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! I hope you can join us again today! Merry Christmas!


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