Knowing your horses vitals is key information to have in maintaining your horses health. It is important to have each horses average heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate so if a health issue arises, you can nip it in the bud, and provide your vet with any abnormalities to your horses normal levels. We keep each horses individual information in their personal folders, along with their vet, farrier, and dental records.
Every barn should have a good, stocked, organized, and easily found first aid kit. We've compiled a list to the right, but for the purposes of checking vitals, you will need a thermometer, vaseline, and a stethoscope.
Adult aged average vitals for horses at rest:
Temperature: 99.5-101.5 degrees Fahrenheit
Heart rate 28-44 beats per minutes (da-dum is one heart beat)
Respiratory rate: 10-24 Breaths per minute
Gum Capillary Refill: Less than two seconds
How to check your horses temperature:
The most accurate way to get your horses temperature is retally. Make sure you lubricate the thermometer first with Vaseline. Keep in mind the end of the horse you are working with, and make sure you stand to the side to avoid getting kicked. Hold tightly to the thermometer, as the rectum will naturally try and pull it in.
How to check your horses heart rate:
There are four locations that are commonly used to check your horses heart rate. The easiest location is under the jaw, on the Mandibular Artery. If you place your fingers between the horses jaw bones, and run your fingers towards to bone, you will find the artery. Apply a light pressure and you will feel the pulse. Other locations are on the side of the horses pasterns of the front legs, in the heart-girth area just behind the left elbow, and on the tail bone.
How to check your horses breathing rate:
You can watch your horses nostrils or torso to check their breathing rate, however the most accurate way is to listen to their trachea with your stethoscope. Keep in mind your horse must be in a quiet, calm state to have an accurate reading. No feed in front of them, or anything else that will encourage them to get a scent.
How to check your horses gums:
This one is simple! Press your thumb firmly to your horses gum for a second and count how long it takes for the gums to turn back to the normal, pink color. Note that if your horses gums are Red or White or the refill time exceeds 3 seconds, you should call your vet immediately.
Again, please keep in mind these are the average numbers for adult horses at rest. Younger and older horses can have different averages, and just like humans, some horses may have a slightly higher or slightly lower normal temperature. Also, this is a basic guide to check for illness in your horses, but just because a horses vitals are normal, does not mean something isnt going on and if you suspect any health issues, call your vet!
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