- Describe the horse’s attitude – bright and alert, depressed, lethargic, quiet, anxious, uncomfortable, etc.
- Describe horse’s actions – not moving, not bearing weight in a leg, pawing, looking at the belly, pacing, shaking, uncoordinated, etc.
- Take horse’s temperature – normal temperature is 98 to 101 degrees F. Normal temperature for foals is 99 to 102 degrees F. Temperature can vary depending on the outside temperature and if your horse has been exercising. Click here to watch a video of Dr. Lewis demonstrating how to take a horse’s temperature.
- Determine horse’s heart rate – normal is 28 to 45 bpm (beats per minute). Normal foal heart rate is between 60-100 bpm. Heart rate can change depending on exercise, pain and anxiety.
- Determine horse’s respiratory rate – normal is 8 to 20 bpm (breaths per minute). Normal foal respiratory rate is 30 to 40 bpm. Look at nostrils or flank area to count each breath.
- Assess horse’s appetite and water consumption – eating/not eating, eating grain but not hay, drinking water/not drinking, etc.
- Assess horse’s manure output – amount and consistency (normal, small, none, hard, dry, loose, cow pie, etc.)
- Assess horse’s urine output – amount (wet spots in stall) and color (yellow, red, brown).
- Listen for gut motility – be able to tell when there are no guts sounds (1-2 gurgles per 30 – 60 seconds), excessive gut sounds (loud, nearly constant gut sounds).
- Look at mucous membranes – know their normal color (pink) and texture (moist). Be able to describe abnormal mucous membranes (white, gray, dark pink, purple, dry/tacky). Click here to watch a video of Dr. Lewis demonstrating how to check a horse’s mucous membranes.
- Feel digital pulses.
- Assess for heat or swelling in legs and hooves.
- Assess lameness – bearing weight, but lame at a walk, toe touching when walking; walking sound, but lame at a trot; non-weight bearing (not putting the leg down at all).
- Note nasal discharge – from one or both nostrils; color, thickness, odor, blood, food in nasal discharge, etc.
- Note ocular (eye) discharge – if keeping eye open or closed, tearing or not, discharge color and type (watery, mucous), sensitivity to light, etc.
- Laceration – does it need sutures – note how big the wound is and where, is it over a joint, is blood or clear yellow fluid coming from the wound; possibly how deep the wound is (bone exposed, muscle torn), and how old the wound is. (If a wound is over 12 hours old, it may not be possible to suture it.)
- Vaccines – know what vaccines your horse gets and when. Know if you horse is up to date on the tetanus vaccine. The tetanus vaccine is needed once a year.
- As owners, you know your horses better than anyone. Take the time to run your hands all over your horses—feel all their bumps and scars so you will know what is normal. You will be better able to catch any new bumps, lumps or swellings if they arise
Normal vitals for Adult Horses
Temperature 98 to 101 degrees F
Heart Rate 28 to 45 beats per minute
Respiratory Rate 8 to 20 breaths per minute
Normal vitals for Foals
Temperature 99 to 102 degrees F
Heart Rate 60 to 100 beats per minute
Respiratory Rate 30 to 40 breaths per minute