We are a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) approved equine hospital.
A normal healthy horse should be bright, alert and responsive to their surroundings.
They should be regularly eating, drinking, deficating and urinating.
Temperature: 37-38.5 °C (98.5 - 101.3°F)
Heart Rate: 32-44 beats per minute
Respiratory Rate: 8-14 breaths per minute
We recommend you should know what is normal for your horse.
The best way to take your horse's temperature is rectally with a digital thermometer, although you can also use a mercury thermometer (but don't forget to shake it first!).
It is a good idea to take a baseline temperature when your horse is relaxed, with either someone holding the horse or with the horse tied up. Ensure that your thermometer is lubricated and then, if you are right handed, it is easiest to stand on the left hand side of the horse, with your shoulder touching its rump. Use your left hand to gently lift the tail so you can use your right hand to gently guide the end of the thermometer a couple of inches inside the anus, so that you can still see the digital screen. Continue holding the thermometer and tail until you have a reading, then carefully remove the thermometer.
The ideal would be to get a rapid '10 second reading' thermometer, which makes the whole process easier.
The easiest place to take your horse's heart rate is the mandibular artery, just under the jaw.
You will need to have your horse quiet, still and not eating. Put your fingers on the inside of your horse's nearest jawbone and feel for a cord-like structure which you will feel beating. You should count the number of beats a 15 second time period, then multiply by 4 to get the number of beats in 60 seconds (which will give you the number of beats per minute). You should repeat this 3 times to get an average.
Another place you can take your horse's heart rate is the digital pulse taken from the artery that runs down either sied of the back of your horse's fetlock and pastern. Although in this location it is more useful to know the strength of the pulse.
A horse's respiratory rate is the number of breaths taken in one minute. You can measure respiratory rate by watching the flank and rib cage, counting how many times it rises and falls in 15 seconds, then multiplying that number by 4 to get the number of breaths in 60 seconds, giving you the horse's breaths per minute rate. As with heart rate, you should repeat this 3 times to get an average.
Watching the nostrils is less accurate as they can twitch and move with smelling. If you have a stethoscope, you can also listen to the trachea on the underside of the neck.
There are many problems in a horse that can be classed as a veterinary emergency. Many of these are covered in more detail in other sections on our USEFUL INFORMATION page.
We would very much recomend everyone having a first aid box on their yard with the following content: