Taking Your Horses Vital Signs

All horse owners should be able to take their horses vital signs in case of a emergency. These are great to know when we know there is something that just isn’t right with our horse. We all know our own horses well enough to know when there is something wrong. 

Knowing how to take these vital signs will help out your vet if they are on their way to your stable, This will save time in diagnosing your beloved friend and companion. These are also good to take to see if the vet is actually needed. Sometimes our horses just don’t feel good, or have a bad day, and who wants to waste money on calling out your vet if it isn’t necessary. 

Heart Rate

The normal resting heart rate for a horse is between 36-40 beats per minute. Just like humans, a horses heart rate will increase with exercise, excitement, stress and pain. Horses are individuals and sometimes their resting heart rate will vary a little from the average, so it is always recommended that you document your own horses heart rate on a regular basis so that you can know exactly when your horse isn’t feeling himself. 

How to measure the heart rate

A good stethoscope is a valuable tool as a horse owner, and will correctly measure your horses heart rate. You can find a good stethoscope for $15. To listen to the heart rate, you want to place the stethoscope right behind the horses front elbow, this is the best place to hear the heart. 

Taking Your Horses Temperature

The normal horses temperature should be between 99-101°F (37.2-38.3°C). Several climatic factors will influence your horses temperature. The warmer the weather the higher the temperature and the colder the weather the lower the temperature. As with the heart rate it is best to take the temperature several times to document the average normal temperature of your horse. 

How to Measure the Temperature

A digital thermometer is a critical part of you horses first aid kit, and is inexpensive.  The most effective way to take the temperature is rectally. We want to make this process as comfortable as we can, as it is a little awkward. You want to lubricate the thermometer with either Vaseline or KY Jelly. Be sure that the thermometer is on, and gently insert into the anus. Make sure to hold it at an angle to ensure it is lightly pressed against the anal wall. Leave the thermometer in until it beeps, signaling that it is ready. 

Readings that are above your horses average could possibly indicate several types of health problems, including infections, colds, fevers and many more. If the temperature is about normal, it is probably best to call the vet. 

Checking Your Horses Circulation

Your horses membrane color and be easily measured bu assessing the color of your horse’s gums, lining of his eyelids and inside his nostrils. 

A salmon color, or a shade that is a little lighter than a humans gum color will usually indicate healthy circulation in a horse. The membrane colors that indicate a problem will be yellow gums, which will indicate liver issues, bright brick red will indicate toxicity or shock, grey gums will indicate illness and pale pink will indicate anemia.

Capillary Refill Time

To measure your horse’s capillary refill time, simply lift up your horse’s lip and press your finger against your horse’s gum for about 5 seconds. After 5 seconds remove your finger and release the pressure. Your finger will leave a white mark where you were pressing on the gum. Healthy circulation will turn the white mark quickly to the horse’s normal gum color within 2 seconds.  If the refill time takes longer than 2 seconds this indicates a compromised circulation. 


Knowing these vital signs are crucial to any horse owner. These will help you better understand your horse’s normal signs, and you will be able to quickly assess if there is a problem. 


Safe Riding!


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