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How to Check Your Horse’s Pulse

As a horse owner it’s important for you to be able to know how to check your horse’s vital signs.

An adult horse has a resting pulse rate of 28-45 beats per minute (count the double ‘lub dub’ as one full beat). You should check your horse’s pulse rate several times so that you can establish a baseline for what is normal. A pulse rate of 50 bpm or higher at rest is an indicator that a horse is in physical distress, is excited or nervous, in pain or suffering from a disease.

Checking the digital pulse in the fetlock is an excellent way to determine if there is a problem such as laminitis. It’s a good idea to know what your horse’s digital pulse normally feels like so that you have a baseline. When a horse has a stronger than usual digital pulse you should call your vet.

Instructions

There are three ways to check your horse’s pulse.

Place your index finger lightly in front of the left jawbone where you can feel a major artery.
Use a stethoscope to listen to the pulse behind the left elbow.
To check the digital pulse place your fingers on the inside and outside of a leg on the fetlock. When the pulse is normal you can feel it only lightly.

Tips & Warnings

Don’t use your thumb when checking for a pulse under the jawbone. You may inadvertently feel your own pulse.

When checking the digital pulse get a baseline on all four hooves. A normal resting pulse is very light. If you feel a throbbing pulse, call your veterinarian. A strong digital pulse is often a sign of laminitis.

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