Getting Your Horse’s Base Vital Signs

Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration are the basic part of any physical examination. By knowing your horse’s vital signs and knowing how to take them in an emergency you greatly increase your horse’s chances of survival!

While your horse is healthy you should take their vital signs over a one week to two-week period. These should be resting readings, (so not while sick, high as a kite, after a tough ride, turnout or while waiting to be fed their precious food!)

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Tools: You will need a stethoscope, a thermometer (preferably digital) and a timer (or a watch/phone with a timer on it).

How to take your horse’s pulse: If you have a stethoscope handy fit it to your ears and stand on your horse’s left side facing their hind end. Place your stethoscope a few inches behind the elbow. Listen for your horse’s heart sounds which should make a slow “Lub-Dub”. This is 1 beat! Be patient if you don’t get it right away. You can run your timer for 30 seconds once you are certain you can hear the heart and multiple the number of beats x2.  You can also take your horse’s pulse using the maxillary artery. Find it by cupping your hand around one side of your horse’s jawbone. Move your fingers around until you find the artery. It’s about a pencil width thick. Keep your fingers lightly pressed against it until you feel the rhythm.

How to take Respiratory rate: This one is easy. You can keep track by watching you horse’s chest move in and out with each breath.

How to take temperature: Horse’s temperatures are taken rectally. Apply some lubricant to the thermometer before inserting, move your horse’s tail to the side and insert. Be sure to stand to the side and not stand directly behind your horse because they may kick you. It is advised to securely attach a string to your thermometer so you don’t accidentally lose it to the abyss!

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