Hello everyone! Has anything changed in your horse’s life? Did you move him to a new home? Has the weather changed? Or did you get a new horse recently? All of these are great reasons to learn and perform a Horse Health Check. There are 6 things we focus on to assess horse health when we are establishing a baseline for each horse or trying to determine if something might be “off”.
Body Condition, Gum Refill, Dehydration, Respiration, Heart Rate and Temperature (front to back assessment). Other indicators including gut sounds, attitude and gait soundness are super important too.
Usually if something is out of normal range in these areas, you should call your vet. Each horse is a unique animal so determining normal range should be done when they are healthy and at rest.
Here is a terrific chart from Equine Guelph that gives you the “signals” in an easy to follow color coded chart.
BODY CONDITION SCORING- great place to start. Average healthy horse score = 5-6. Determine your horse’s overall score and do this once per month to catch weight loss or gain, which could indicate a problem. For more about this topic click here
GUM REFILL- Average refill rate = 1-2 seconds. It’s important to check this vital sign when you suspect something might be wrong. Any delay of return of color could indicate poor blood perfusion which can result from dehydration, shock or other illness.
SKIN PINCH TEST/DEHYDRATION- Average rebound rate is 2-3 seconds. When the skin doesn’t return to it’s normal position after pinching…you might have problems.
RESPIRATION- Average resting rate = 8-15 breaths/minute. Before you consider your horse’s rate “abnormal” take into consideration things that can affect the rate; temperature, exercise, and stress. Try to note the characteristics of the breathing as well; is it labored? Does your horse groan when he breaths?
HEART RATE/PULSE- Average resting rate = 40 beats/minute. Try to keep in mind that horses are all different so “normal” for a fit horse will not be the same as for one that isn’t. Any rate over 40 is cause for concern however and 50-60 are considered serious. Over 80 is critical.
TEMPERATURE- Average resting temp = 100 degrees F. Consider weather when measuring temp as winter/cold outside temps can result in lower (97 degrees) rectal temp.
This video is from my friend Cindy at Deer Creek Equine
Hope this helps you determine your baselines as well as any abnormalities in your horse’s health!
~Til we meet again….