HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Vital Signs Cover

Every horse owner should be aware of these before there is an emergency and you have your vet on the other end of the line.

Remember that every horse is different so know what is normal for each horse in your barn.

Check these vital signs when your horse is at rest.


99.5-101.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 to 38.5 degrees Celsius)

Thermometers designed for use with livestock have a ring on the top. This ring can be attached to a string and a clip attached to the opposite end of the string. The clip can be clipped to the horse's tail when you take the horse's temperature.


Respiratory Rate:

12-20 Breaths per Minute

Respiration can be taken by watching the horse's chest move in and out (an inhale and exhale is one breath) or feeling the air come out of the nostrils.

Pulse: 30-40 Beats per Minute

Having a stethoscope makes this job easier but the heart rate or pulse can be taken without a stethoscope. The pulse can be taken from the lingual artery, which is on the bottom side of the jaw in a shallow groove beneath the last cheek tooth.

The lingual artery has a circumference similar to a piece of baling twine or pencil. Take the pulse for 15 seconds then multiply that number by four to determine heart rate in beats per minute.


Gum Color: Pale Pink

Healthy horses have nice pink gums that are moist to the touch. HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Gums

Capillary Refill Time:

Less than 2 Seconds

Capillary refill time is tested by pressing your finger firmly on the gum above the front incisors and removing it quickly. The time it takes for the area to turn from white back to pink is the capillary refill time.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_Gum Refill2

Gut Sounds:

Checking your horse’s gut sounds is easiest with a stethoscope. You should hear gurgling, tinkling sounds (fluid), and occasionally grumbles.

Be sure to listen for up to a minute in each of the four quadrants:

Left side top and bottom, and right side top and bottom. The left side top corresponds to the small intestine (which is usually pretty quiet.) The left side bottom is the large intestine. The right side top is the caecum and large intestine. The right side bottom is the large intestine.



Pinch the neck/shoulder skin and release; generally, the skin should snap back to normal in a one or two seconds. On a dehydrated horse the skin will stay up in the pinched form.

HappyHorseHealthyPlanet_hydration pinch test

Keep this handy so you will be prepared. You can get a printable PDF of this helpful health checklist for only 99 cents by clicking here


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