Taking your horse’s vital signs is one of those basic horsemanship skills every horse person ought to know. This knowledge will help you to identify whether something is off with your horse’s health, and when it’s time to call the vet.
Bay Area Equestrian Network has put together these awesome short, funny, and informative videos showing you how to check your horse’s vital signs. They’ll also let you know if your horse’s vitals are within normal ranges.
Take the quick, four-minute tutorial on taking horse’s vital signs:
Temperature, Hydration, Mucosal Membrane, Capillary Refill
Quick Tips on Taking Horses’ Vital Signs
Use a thermometer in your horse’s rectum to check for normal body temperature.
- Normal temp: 99.5-101
- Call the vet: 102-104
Pinch the skin at the base of the neck to see how quickly it returns to normal, or if it stays “tented” for a few seconds indicating dehydration.
- Normal: skin snaps back right away
- Call the vet: skin stays up for a few seconds
Look for healthy coloration of your horse’s gums.
- Normal: pink
- Call the vet: pale, yellowish, red
Capillary Refill Time
Press against your horse’s gums for several seconds and see how long it takes for the spot to go from white back its normal color.
- Normal: color should refill in less than 3 seconds
- Call the vet: 5 or more seconds to regain color
Use your fingers along the jaw line or a stethoscope behind the elbow to check your horse’s heart rate.
- Normal: 36 bpm (may be slightly elevated due to fear or nervousness)
Check your horse’s vital signs on a regular basis. Familiarize yourself with what is normal for your horse. That way, if something is wrong you will be able to spot it more quickly.
As always, consult with your vet if you notice anything unusual. And you can even ask him or her to help walk you through checking your horse’s vital signs the next time out. A more educated owner is a better owner all around.