Do you know how to take your horse's vital signs? Do you know what the
normal range is for his temperature? For his pulse? For his breathing?
If you don't have it memorized, perhaps it would be a good idea to print out this page and
put it in your tack room or somewhere that you can find easily in an emergency.
I printed out a page with the normal range of each of the vital signs plus
emergency phones numbers, such as for my regular veterinarian, for a secondary
veterinarian, for the nearest equine surgery center, for my horseshoer, and for my
neighbors. I am notorious for not being able to remember important stuff when I'm under
stress. Then I tucked this paper into the clear plastic pocket on the cover of a notebook.
Inside the notebook I put various health articles that I've collected over the years.
There are articles about how and where to take the pulse, how to correctly apply a leg
bandage, what are the signs of colic, what are the signs of navicular... Well, you get the
picture. This notebook is always put back in the same spot that is easily accessed so I
can quickly look up the information I need.
You could also slip the paper into a plastic sheet protector and attach it to your tack
room door or some other location(s) near a phone.
Here is some basic information about your horse's vital signs to help get
you started on something similar. You might also want to check your horse on a regular
basis to see if his normal vital signs are a little higher or a little lower than the
average. This periodic check helps you get to know your horse's health and might also help
you detect when he's sick or has some type of problem a little sooner.
Temperature normal -
99.5 to 101.4 degrees Farenheit
- foals & yearlings can have normal temperatures up to 102 degrees
- normal temperatures may run slightly higher in hot, humid weather; if horse is in direct
sunlight or has just been exercised
Heart Rate normal adult
- 26 to 40 beats per minute
- young horses have a faster heart rate
foals 2-4 weeks old = 70 to 90 beats per minute
foals 6 to 12 months old = 45 to 60 beats per minute
2 to 3 years old = 40 to 50 beats per minute
- feel for a pulse inside the curve of the jaw or on the chest wall behind the left elbow
Respiration normal - 8
to 16 breaths per minute
- generally faster in foals
- also increases with work, hot weather, overfilling of the stomach, and pregnancy
- normal sounds are tinklings and bubblings in the flank area
- no sounds or rapid churning can be signs of colic
- generally light pink with capillary refill time of 1 to 2 seconds
- dark red or purplish color indicates lack of oxygen in the blood
- yellow color indicates jaundice
- very pale or blotchy color are also signs of illness