As summer heats up, you’re probably seeing more articles on the critical problem of heat stress or heat exhaustion for you horse. Signs can include elevated temperature, rapid pulse, rapid breathing and/or dehydration. But unless you know your horse’s healthy vital signs, you might miss a real emergency. So let’s review a horse’s T-P-R, I.e. their normal, relaxed temperature, pulse and respiration. We’ve also included a reminder on how to check for dehydration.Temperature:
The normal temperature for the horse is 100.0 degrees. However, a horse's temperature can vary, dropping a bit in the winter and becoming elevated in the summer. If your horse’s temperature is over 102 F, you should call your veterinarian.
A horse’s normal pulse rate is 40 beats per minute. Some people listen to the heart rate for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6, or 30 seconds and multiply by 2. However, if you have any questions, listen to the pulse rate for the full minute. ANY rate above 40, even 44, should be monitored, although fright or exercise can elevate it. A pulse rate above 80 is considered "critical" and indicate a very serious problem.
Respiration is how hard your horse is breathing. The normal rate for horses is between 8-12 breaths per minute. Watch his sides as he breathes in and out and count the number of complete breaths. Deep heavy breathing, or breathing with an extra abdominal effort, abnormal noise, labored breathing, or gasping are all indications for concern.
Pinch and elevate the horse’s skin over the shoulder, then let go. If it snaps back into place very quickly, your horse is properly hydrated. If it stays elevated for a few seconds, your horse may be dehydrated.
Consider automatic waterers this summer to help your horse stay healthy and hydrated.
Your horse’s abnormal T-P-R can indicate other problems as well, including colic or injury. Comparing normal vital signs to those your horse is currently experiencing can help you determine if it’s time to call the vet.
photo credit: equestrian professional