Horse Health

Vital Signs

September 4, 2008

Learn how to check your horse’s vital signs and make sure he’s healthy.

A normal temperature for a horse is between 99.5 and 101.5 F.

Here’s how to check your horse’s temperature:

  • Lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly.
  • Attach a string to the end of your thermometer if it should fall into your horse’s bedding.
  • Tie a clothespin to the other end of the string so you can attach it to your horse’s tail while you’re taking his temperature.
  • Approach the horse from the side, and do not stand directly behind him.
  • Raise your horse’s tail and insert the thermometer into his rectum.
  • Wait at least 1 minute, then read the thermometer.

Learn more practical ways to keep your horse healthy and happy. Become an AQHA or AQHYA member and receive America’s Horse magazine 10 times a year. It’s packed with great horse health information.

Find the Pulse

A normal horse’s heartbeat is between 32 and 36 beats per minute.

  • Use your fingers or a stethoscope to find your horse’s pulse under his chin or on the left side of his barrel, just behind his left elbow.
  • Each “lub-dub” is considered one beat.
  • Record the rate for 15 seconds and multiply by four to get your horse’s heart rate.

Check Breaths

A normal horse exhibits 8-12 breaths per minute.

  • Watch your horse’s chest move in and out, or cup your hand over his nostril and feel the air come out.
  • Use your stethoscope to listen to the breaths as the air travels across the trachea when he inhales and exhales. it should sound clear and consistent.
  • Note the characteristics of your horse’s breathing. Are the breaths shallow or deep? Are there any abnormal sounds like squeaking or roaring?

Did You Know?

A horse’s daily water requirement varies from 5 to 20 gallons, depending on environmental temperature, workload, production state and feed intake. Providing clean, fresh water is a top priority for horse owners.

Learn more about horses’ health, including nutritional requirements, in America’s Horse magazine. America’s Horse is the official member publication of AQHA.