Brandenburg’s Tidbits | Did you know? @Your Horse’s Vital Signs


-Our ponies.   They give us their hearts.   They try has hard as they can.   They accomplish the impossible.    They just want to please us.   And all we have to do in return is show them some love and care.     But some many of us don’t even know the basics to maintain their care.    How many of us know what our horse’s vitals should be?   Or Should I say, How many of us don’t know what our Horse’s normal vitals should be?  I think that number may astound you.     So If you already know the answers, think of this as a quick refresher.   If you don’t know the answers, then please take the time to read this.   You never know when this knowledge may save your horse’s life.

Here’s the basics:

Adult Horse (resting values):

  • Temperature: 99-101° F (37.2-38.3°C)
  • Pulse (Heart Rate):   28-44  beats per minute.  Lub-Dub = One Beat.  To simplify this process you can measure the heart rate for 30 seconds and then multiply by 2.
  • Respiratory (Breathing Rate):  10-24 beats per minute.   This rate should never exceed the heart pulse rate
  • Mucous membranes (gums): Moist, healthy, pink in color.
  • Capillary refill time (time it takes for capillaries in the gums to return to pink after being pressed with a finger):   Two seconds or less.
  • Dehydration — The old skin pliability test:   Just pinch or fold a flap of skin on the neck and then quickly release it.    It should immediately snap back into place.    Failure to do so is evidence of dehydration.
  • Excretions:   The color, consistency and volume of feces and urine should be typical of your horse’s usual excretions.    Note any straining or failure to excrete
  • Gut Sounds present on both the left & right hand sides:  Gurgling, gaslike growls, “tinkling” sounds (fluid) and occasionally “roars”.   Be able to describe sound to your vet.

Newborn Foals up to 2 days of age (resting values):

  • Temperature: 99.5-102.1°F (37.5-38.9°C)
  • Pulse: 80-100 beats per minute
  • Respiration (breathing rate): 20-40 breaths per minute
  • Mucous membranes (gums): Moist, healthy pink color
  • Capillary refill time: Two seconds or less.
Remember, this is a basic guideline.    Many things can affect the normalcy of your horses vital signs – Anxiety, Humidity, Winter Cold, Summer Heat, etc.    And there can be some variance from individual to individual.    The real key is to know what is normal for your horse.     So please don’t let an emergency be the first time you check your horse’s vitals.