It’s important for every horse owner to know how to check their horse’s vitals. Knowing how to take your horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration are crucial tools to have in your back pocket in case of an unexpected emergency. 

Follow along and learn these simple and easy steps to check your horse’s vitals.

Taking your horse’s temperature

Before you can take your horse’s temperature, you need the right kind of thermometer. Get a thermometer that isn’t made out of glass because glass thermometers can break easily and they are filled with mercury, which is toxic to you and your horse. You will also need some kind of lubricant preferably petroleum jelly.

Next, you’ll want to take your horse’s temperature when they are relaxed so you have an idea of your horse’s baseline temperature. A healthy temperature range is usually between 99.0°F to 101.4°F. A good way to really understand your horse’s baseline temperature is to take their temperature multiple times throughout the day.

Now that you’re ready to take their temperature, here are 5 easy steps:

  1. Lubricate the end of the thermometer
  2. Run your hand along your horse’s side and to the back end of your horse
  3. Move their tail to the side
  4. Make sure to not stand directly behind your horse because if they aren’t used to getting their temperature checked, they could kick
  5. Standing to the side, gently insert the tip of the thermometer and hold it until it beeps

Taking your horse’s heart rate

To check your horse’s heart rate, it’s recommended to get a stethoscope so you can accurately assess if your horse’s heart rate is in the normal range. A normal heartbeat range is between 35 – 40 beats per minute. An Abnormal heartbeat range is anything over 80 or under 20. 

There are several places to feel for a pulse including:

  • The inside of the jaw
  • The inside of the front leg
  • Above the knee 
  • The outside of the hind leg

When using a stethoscope, place it underneath the horse’s elbow on the left side. Listen to the lub-DUB….each lub-DUB is one beat. Count the pulse for 15 seconds and then multiply by 4.

Taking your horse’s respiration

To count the breaths your horse is taking, you can either watch their nostrils flare or watch their flank rising and falling with each breath. One breath is a complete cycle in and out (inhalation and exhalation). Because the horse’s normal respiratory rate is so low, count for 30 seconds and times that by 2 to get a more accurate reading.

Want to learn more?

Take an Equine First Aid Certification Course! Holistic Animal Studies offers a completely online and self-paced Equine First Aid Course that will teach you basic first aid and advanced first aid, so you’ll know what to do in any emergency situation. Having this knowledge could save your horse’s life.

Learn more about Holistic Animal Studies’ Equine First Aid Course!

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Equine Wellness Magazine is North America’s most trusted natural health and lifestyle magazine for horses, and the premiere publication educating a growing audience in natural and integrative approaches to health and horsemanship. EW transcends all areas of the equine market and appeals to everyone from backyard enthusiasts to serious competitors.