Know These Common Vital Signs In Horses

August 16, 2017

A horse’s vital signs should be checked frequently. They are strong indicators of his current health. As a rider, it’s essential to know what are common ranges for a horse’s heart rate, temperature, breathing rate, etc.

Monitor your horse’s health by ensuring he is in a normal range, so you know whether he needs immediate vet care. Here’s a few important ones you should memorize.

Temperature

The normal body temperature for a horse is between 99 and 101°F. Depending on the weather, his stress level, and whether he was exercised recently, you can expect a variance of 3 degrees. If his temperature exceeds 102, it is probably time to call your vet.

Pulse

Between 28-44 beats per minute is a normal pulse rate for an adult horse at rest. The rate can change when he is nervous, sick, in pain, or during exercise.

Younger horses and foals will experience different pulse rates. For a foal, 70 to 120 bpm is average, while a two year old is normally around 40 to 50 bpm.

Respiration

Depending on the weather, exercise, and if he’s in pain, the average respiration rate should be around 8 to 15 breaths per minute. The respiration rate should never exceed the pulse rate. Rapid breathing is not a good sign.

Dehydration

A horse should be drinking throughout the day. The average horse needs 5 gallons of water per day. You can test his dehydration level by grabbing a chunk of skin on his neck, pinch it and see how long it takes to flatten. It if doesn’t return to normal in 1 second he should be getting more water.

Gut Sounds

When you put your ear to your horse’s barrel you should hear gurgling, growls, or roar sounds. If his belly is silent, then you might have a problem and need to contact the vet. This could be a sign of colic.

Gums

The gums should be a healthy pink color. The capillary refill time, or how long it takes for the pink color to return to the gums after being pressed with your finger, is around 2 seconds.

Learn these common vital signs to ensure your horse is feeling his best. Spend a few extra minutes checking him over when the weather is severe or after a hard workout. If you notice him acting slightly off, you should also check them. Your vet will be happy to know you’re on top of your horse’s health!

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