Tuesday Tip – Your Horse’s Vitals

As many of us are moving into spring (sorry those that are moving into fall! Maybe you can book mark this for your spring time exercise program!) I thought it would be helpful for us to understand how to take our horse’s vitals. We can use this information as we leg our horses up for the hard work of summer time driving. Even though we can’t participate in shows this year we can absolutely get our horses and ponies in shape! Knowing your starting vitals can be super helpful in tracking their overall physical health as they get more and more in shape.

Normal Vital Signs:

And for our friends that use Celsius:

Why is it important to know what your horse’s resting TPR is?

1) A rapid heart rate can indicate pain, anxiety/stress, exertion, or a fever. A slower-than-normal rate can indicate shock, hypothermia, poisoning, or simply good athletic condition. Knowing your horse’s resting rate will help you determine if any of the above is going on.

2) An elevated temperature can indicate pain, infection, heat exhaustion, or exertion. A below-normal temp can indicate shock or hypothermia due to exposure to cold weather.

3) A raised respiratory rate can point to fever, pain (as from colic), shock, heat exhaustion, or difficulty breathing because of an abnormality in the lungs or airways. Nervousness and exercise will also speed breathing. A below-normal rate could indicate shock, hypothermia, the effect of a drug, or simply good athletic condition.

4) Gum (mucous membrane) color is a quick indicator of whether blood is being effectively pumped through your horse’s body. White or very pale gums can indicate shock or anemia. Dark or purple gums may indicate severe shock or toxemia (the heart isn’t pumping effectively, and blood is pooling in these distant vessels in the gums).

5) A very slow capillary refill time can indicate shock (your horse’s circulation isn’t functioning as it should). If the refill time seems very fast, it’s most likely normal.

6) Louder and more frequent sounds than normal can mean your horse is experiencing a mild colic due to intestinal spasms or gas accumulation. No sounds means there’s no gut movement, which may indicate shock or a severe colic episode with a shutdown of the digestive tract.

7) A strong or “throbby” pulse indicates inflammation in your horse’s foot or a disruption of the blood flow. **If the pulse is weak and hard to find, it’s probably normal.

**All of these guidelines are from an online article by Horse and Rider.

How to take vital signs:

Here is a video put out by SmartPak –


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