Vital Signs


Do you know how to determine if your horse is in distress? Sometimes a horse may not 'look' good. Or it may be acting uncharacteristically lethargic or avoiding meals. How do you determine if he's just having an off day, or if he needs to visit the veterinarian? One way is to check his vitals. If you would like to learn how to check things like heart and respiratory rate you should check out this great blog from EquiNews, Powered by Kentucky Equine Research.

Another thing that could help you determine the condition of your horse is knowing what his 'normal' is. Since almost all vitals are given as a range for horses, knowing your steed's particulars could be very beneficial, especially if he is typically towards one side of the normal range. Heart rate is anywhere from 30-45 beats per minute. Respiratory rates are normally from 8 to 16, and normal temperatures range from 99.5 to 101.5.

This blog from brings up a few more easy-to-check health indicators. Capillary refill time should be less than two seconds. This is a super easy test. Just press on the gums of the horse (works for dogs, too) and count two seconds. The pink color should return before you are done counting. Gut sounds can usually heard just by listening with your ear on the horse's abdomen if it's a gentle horse, or you can use a stethoscope for better hearing or to stay safe with a less trusted equine. The "skin turgor" test can be used to check for dehydration. Simply pull up and pinch a fold a skin for a couple seconds and let go. A healthy and well hydrated horse's skin will snap back to the orginal flat state very quickly. If there are any delays there you should suspect dehydration.