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Normal Vital Parameters

Every horse owner should learn how to check their horse's vital health parameters.  


Use a thermometer (mercury, digital, etc.) that you would find at any local pharmacy.  Use a small amount of lubricant (eg. Vasaline, KY, saliva) and insert the thermometer into your horse's anus approximately 1 to 2 inches so that it rests against the rectal wall.  Hold the thermometer in place for 1 minute (or less for some digital thermometers).

Normal Temperature Ranges

Adult Horses and Donkeys  98F - 101F 
Newborn Foals 99F - 102F

* A temperature above 101.5F in an adult horse is considered a fever. 

Heart Rate

If you have a stethoscope in your barn, place the bell of the stethoscope on the horse's left side, behind his elbow.  Listen for the heart sounds "lub-dub, lub-dub."  Each "lub-dub" sound is counted as one beat.  Count the total beats over one minute.  This is the horse's heart rate.  If you do not have a stethoscope, sometimes you can feel the horse's heart beat with your hand held in the same position (thin horses).  

Normal Heart Rate

Adult Horses and Donkeys  28 - 44 beats/minute 
Newborn Foals  80 - 100 beats/minute 

Respiratory Rate

Watch your horse's ribcage move in and out.  You can also also look at his nostrils flare open and closed. Count the number of breaths he takes over one minute.  

Normal Respiratory Rate

Adult Horses and Donkeys  8 - 16 breaths/minute 
Newborn Foals  20 - 40 breaths/minute 

Mucous Membranes

Look at your horse's gums.  Note the color and the moisture.  Press your finger against the gums and count how many seconds it takes to return to a pink color.  This is called the capillary refill time and is an important parameter to check.

Normal Mucous Membranes      

All Equines  Pink, Moist and Capillary Refill Time less than 2 seconds