01622 813700 SignVideo

First Aid

A normal healthy horse should be bright, alert and responsive to their surroundings.

They should be regularly eating, drinking, deficating and urinating.

Normal parameters for a healthy horse:

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.

(KC/AG 2020)

Temperature: 37-38.5 °C (98.5 - 101.3°F)

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.


Heart Rate: 32-44 beats per minute

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. 

Respiratory Rate: 8-14 breathes per minute

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.

Here is a brief summary of what you should do in an emergency:

  •  DON'T PANIC! Take a deep breath, step back and assess the situation
  •  Find help - colleagues, family, friends and vets
  •  Make the vet aware of the situation as soon as possible and discuss if other services are required, such as the fire department or police
  • The vet will give you specific instructions regarding what first aid should be done, but this should ONLY be done if it is SAFE for you to do so
  • If you have not done so already, and it is SAFE to do so, restrain the horse and make the surrounding area safe
  • NEVER put yourself in danger.

We would very much recomend everyone having a first aid box on their yard with the following content:

  • digital thermometer
  • primary dressings of varying sizes and amounts - eg melonin or rondopad
  • soffban and cotton wool for padding x 2
  • coflex or vetwrap x 2
  • poultice
  • duct tape
  • hibiscrub - make sure use in diluted format, we recommend using 1 part hibiscrub to 10 parts water
  • swabs
  • latex gloves
  • emergency contact details for BELL EQUINE 01622 813700


  • cool packs
  • saline eye wash
  • scissors


  • If bleeding heavily, apply firm pressure or a bandage whilst waiting for the vet. If blood soaks through the first, do not remove 
  • If heavily contaminated with mud, clean with a hosepipe, otherwise use diluted Chlorhexidine (brand name Hibiscrub). We recommend 1 part Hibiscrub to 10 parts water)
  • If there is a penetrating object, if possible leave this in place until the vet arrives
  • It can be helpful to take pictures of a wound to send to a vet 
  • Please do not apply any topical creams or powders to wounds before the vet has assessed. Never put anything in a wound that you would not put in your eye
  • Remember the size of a wound is not always critical, some may only look small but can involve vital structures

Penetrating objects into the foot - e.g. nails:

  • Do not remove the penetrating object as X-Rays may be needed to assess where the object is located and what structures could be affected
  • If this is not possible, try to photograph or video it being removed

Choke: (see further information HERE)

  • Don't panic! Most obstructions clear on their own
  • Remove food & water

The non-weightbearing Horse:

  • Please try to keep your horse still and calm until the vet arrives. Hanging a hay net is a good starting point to help keep them still 

Colic: (See further information HERE)

  • A horse with suspected colic should be seen as soon as possible
  • Most importantly, do not put yourself in danger - a horse with colic can be unpredictable
  • Remove all food
  • You can walk your horse gently for up to 10 minutes if the clinical signs are mild, if your horse is trying to down, do not attempt to stop them
  • If your horse is very uncomfortable (getting up and down / rolling / showing more severe colic signs), turning them out in a field or sand school can sometimes minimise any further injury as they are less likely to hurt themselves in an open area compared to a stable


  • Remove anything that the horse may injure itself on it if attempts to stand
  • If the horse is attempting to stand, stay out of the way and do not attempt to assist