It is a very good idea to have an idea of your horse’s temperature, pulse, and respiration at rest so you can use them when your horse or pony is unwell.
The three basic measurements of temperature, pulse, and respiration are usually taken in the horse’s box. This will give you a basic point to work from and allow you to know when the horse or pony is unwell especially if you take them four times of the year at in the different seasons.
When working with the horse to take a measurement, you need him to be resting, so it is better to do this on a quiet time on the yard when the horse’s flight or fight instincts do not come into play.
Most fit horses will be used to having these readings taken but some privately owned horses might not be used to these reading being taken and you need to be careful when you take these readings.
The horse’s respiration rate can be taken from outside the horse’s stable. First, you need to make sure your horse is happy and relaxed in his stable and happy with you standing just outside of the door.
Let the horse become aware of you outside of the stable. Let him settle and eat any hay he might have in the stable. Watch is abdomen; preferably with him standing tail towards you. Watch the abdomen wall move and look for a small pause, and watch the wall move again.
Now count the number of times of ‘in, pause, out’ in 60 seconds. You can do periods of 15 seconds and then work out how many this would be times 4.
Resting normal is about 10 – 15 respirations per minute.
With taking the heart rate, enter the stable and put a head collar on your horse. Talk softly to your horse and stroke his neck so that he becomes happy with you in the stable.
There are three places you can take a horse pulse, one on the facial artery which runs under the horse’s jaw. You want to use your fingers not your thumb as a pulse runs in your thumb.
You can also move to inside your horse’s elbow where the auxiliary artery can be found. Here you can also use your finger to find the artery. The other area you can also find the two branches of the coccygeal artery on either side of the horse dock under the tail. If you are going to use this area have someone at the head of the horse and quietly move your finders under the dock so that the horse doesn’t kick you.
Resting heart rate is between 25 – 40 beats per minute.
To take a horse’s temperature you will need a helper, a thermometer and some Vaseline. Then you are not using the thermometer make sure that it is kept in a safe place and kept clean.
Make sure if you have a mercury thermometer that you shake it down to below 37C (98F). It is better to do this outside the stable in case if drops.
You need to lubricate the end of the thermometer and a small way up the stem with Vaseline. Get the helper to hold the horse against a wall and if necessary the helper can lift the front leg up if needed.
Standing on the same side as the leg that might have to be held up, make your way to the horse quarters and lift the horsetail gently to the side. Talk quietly to the horse and insert the bulb end of the thermometer. Make sure you keep hold of the thermometer as it can get sucked into the horse’s anus.
The thermometer needs to be in the horse for approximately half a minute. Withdraw the thermometer and let the helper put the leg down if it has been held up. Move away from the horse and read the thermometer. If the reading has not gone up, redo the procedure.
Make sure that you write down the readings as you finish the procedure and clean off the thermometer once you have finished.
Temperature is typically 37.8 – 38.3C (100-101F)
To get the horses normal readings it is a good idea to take the readings night and morning for several days. This way you can have the readings to work against. It is also an idea to do this both in the summer and the winter. Then when you are concerned about your horse you will know their normal readings