Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reading Your Horse's Vital Signs

I'm being wimpy because the temperature has been in single digits, which is way too cold for me to spend any amount of time visiting my horse.  This is the benefit of being at a nice boarding facility -- you know your horse can survive without you for three days.  I do, however, intend to go and see him this evening.  I will probably lunge, not ride.  Ease ourselves back into work....

So, since I have nothing to report related to my horse specifically, I thought I'd pass along something on the Smartpak blog that caught my eye:  How To Take Your Horse's Vital Signs

Pretty much all of us know how to take a horse's temperature, but I personally didn't know exactly how to take a pulse or measure his respiration rate.  I was asked to take Jack's pulse during his colic, and unfortunately couldn't read it.  I was trying to feel for it on the jawbone, and found that every time Jack swallowed, I lost count.  So I found a couple of videos that I thought were quite helpful, and demonstrate a few additional places on the horse where you can find a pulse.  Of course, being the picky researcher that I am, I didn't find one video that I thought was thoroughly comprehensive, but a combination of the three below should do the trick.

This one is helpful because the vet explains the amount of pressure you should use, and points out a place on the horse's face, jaw, and jugular.  I have a feeling the jugular vein is probably a very easy place to find a pulse.

This one is also good (once the horse stops trying to eat the tree in the background), because the vet demonstrates additional points in the horse's leg, including the digital pulse, which can indicate lamintis when it is "bounding" (I've seen vets do this before, but thought it was helpful to see it explained).  This vet states that the normal range is between 36-44 when at rest.

Lastly, I liked this video, because the vet shows and alternate way to take the pulse at the jawbone, and demonstrates the correct place to take a horse's pulse using a stethescope.  He says the normal resting pulse rate of a horse is 36, but explains that if the horse is nervous about being handled by the vet, etc., up to 48 would also be expected. 

So, now that I have these helpful tips, I'm going to practice on Tucker.  I know that Tucker's normal, healthy temperature is between 99.5 and 100.5 (he seems to run hot -- around 100 most of the time), but it would also be good to know his normal resting pulse rate and respiration rate, and keep those ranges listed on the lid of my track trunk in case someone needs them when I'm not around.  Good cold weather activities, right?


  1. I am a super crazy owner and not only do I think knowing how to take vital signs is a must, but I have them posted on Gen's stall door. That way if people are worried about him they will know what his normal is.

  2. Very good resources to pass on :)

  3. You know, it never really occurred to me that I should know how to do this!!! I check for swelling or injuries, I look at gums, check ears, I look at poop...but heart rate?? Bad mommy! I am going to start practicing. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. Great! I've been lazy about learning digital pulses. Going to take notes and practice as soon as I am no longer Typhoid Mary.

  5. Great collection of videos! I agree, checking all these is important. I'm looking it up for a PC exam I have coming up and I found these videos pretty handy in illustrating the written information I found elsewhere - One site I thought covered this really well (no videos, just detailed descriptions). If you're looking for a printable step-by-step, go to: http://austhorse.com/the-normal-horse-vital-signs/


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I love reading them! If you have a question, I will make sure to get back to you.