Recognizing if your horse is healthy or unhealthy is all part of good horse management.
Unless you are a vet, only experience can help you recognize the signs and symptoms of horse-diseases and lameness. Unfortunately horses can’t TELL us what is wrong. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Over the years I have managed many different horses. I have encountered as many different horse-diseases andailments. I can tell you about Ponapee and old age ailments, Levi and colic, Black Jack and Navicular disease, Navajo and laminitis…the list goes on.
Hey but they are all still here, happy and healthy. Clementine is actually 37 years old and still thinks she’s a filly. Remember I have been working with 30-40 horses a day for over 30 years, every day, all day. That is a lot of horses that I have known personally and thus a lot of horse-diseases witnessed first hand!
I feel fairly confident in diagnosingand even treating many horse-diseases myself. Of course I confer with my vet. But before I call I try to get my information ready.
Most of the time we can get to know our horses as well as wedo a best friend or spouse. We can seem to sense if something iswrong.
But does that mean we have to immediately call the vetand say… “What? Um …Sparky doesn’t look so sparkytoday….”. Even if we are going to call the vet it is better to have some specifics to tell him. This way the vet can make a decision on whether or not this is an emergency. If you do not need to call a vet, or while you are waiting for him to arrive always have a complete horse first-aid-kit available.
Lets go over some things you need to know to determine if your horse is sick, lame or in pain?
Remember tip for feeding?
Horses are always hungry.
Any changes in eating behavior can be a warning sign that something is not right.
Remember training tip?
Know your horse!
Any change in your horses behavior can alert you to a problem. Lets say your horse usually greets you with a nicker and bright eyes.Today he is sulky and facing the corner of his stall. That is a change of behavior.
Know your horse’s medical history. Past and present health issues, horse diseases etc. can give insight into the present problem.
Be able to give detailed information about the horses work and exercise schedule for the past week or two. This might give an indication as to the type of injury sustained.
Know your horses vital signs: temperature, respiration and heart rate.This will help you to decide whether or not you should call the vet. Your horse’s vital signs can change drastically when he’s ill, compared to when he is feeling normal. Get to know your horse’s NORMAL vital signs so you will know what is not normal for him.
Temperature for a healthy horse
A normal temperature for a healthy horse is 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Take your horse’s temperature for a few days at different times to establish what is normal for him.Anything below 96 degrees or above 104 degrees means you have a problem. Measure the temperature rectally with a clinical thermometer.
Horses heart rate or pulse
A healthy horse has a heart rate at rest of about 32 to 48 beats per minute. Know your horses resting heart rate.Over 60 bpm tells you there is something definitely wrong. To take the pulse, use a stethoscope and find the heartbeat on the left side behind his left elbow, just beside where the girth lays. Once you can hear a steady beat, look at the second hand of your watch. Count the strong-sounding beats for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 for an accurate one minute result.The pulse can also be felt by using your fingertips on different pulse points, like on the inside of his left knee or inside his left jawbone.
Horses respiration rate
A healthy horse at rest has a respiratory rate of 8 to 16 breaths per minute. Normal is 4 to 24 breaths per minute. Stand by your horse’s left shoulder and face his rear. Watch the flank move in and out – right where the rib cage ends. Check the second hand of your watch and count the # of times the flank moves in OR out for 15 seconds and X by 4 for your one min. count. Know your horses normal respiration!
Horses conformation and blemishes
Know your horses conformation and blemishes..Such as old splints, bog spavin in limbs, scars, old injuries. Lameness in a horse can be defined as a change in the horse’s gait (walk, trot, canter, gallop). Lameness can also cause a change in a horse’s attitude or performance. Usually when there is a change in the horse’s attitude or performance the problem is caused by pain in the back, shoulders, neck, hips or withers
Warning signs of lameness or injuries to the limbs can be detected through:
- Watching the horse move
- Heat in a joint
- Swelling in a joint
- Unwillingness to move
- Standing with one leg not bearing weight.
- A change in attitude or performance of a horse.
If any of these warning signs are present a Veterinarian is needed to identify and locate the cause of the lameness.
In caring for the health of a horse, the earlier the problem is detected, the better the success of the treatment, and the less likelihood of it turning into something serious.