Checking for Signs of a Healthy Horse

Every horse owner should be aware of their horse's health - it's vitally important. This page gives you advice on what to look for when checking that your horse is healthy.

In the wild, it's easy to spot the difference between healthy horses and unhealthy ones, but it's not so easy with domestic horses. Providing you are responsible and knowledgable, you should spot the signs that your horses in ill fairly early.

Breathing, temperature and pulse

Perhaps the most important measures of your horse's health are the temperature, respiration rate and pulse rate. Your horse should be breathing 8-16 times per minute, it's heart should be beating 30-50 times per minute and it's body temperature should be around 38.3 to 38.6 degrees Celcius. These are all resting measurements and will obviously be dramatically different if you have just finished a nice long hack!

Healthy feet

Whilst most horses put more weight on their front feet than their back ones, a healthy horse will appear to take their body weight on all four. A reluctance to do so should give cause for concern. Don't be too alarmed though - as some horses like to rest one of their rear feet when standing. Check your horses feet by inspecting the hooves and horns.

The hooves should not have any cracks or horizontally-running grooves. The horns should not show any sign of splitting where they meet the ground.

Horse's feet are (obviously!) very important and should always be inspected when checking the health of your horse.

Check the eyes

Your horse's eyes (just as they are to any animal) are vitally important - it's their sense of sight after all. When checking your horse's eyes, they should be bright, clean and discharge free. The so-called membrane around the actual eye and on the inside of the eyelid should be a pink or salmon colour.

Your horse's urine and droppings!

Disgusting as it sounds, having a quick check of your horse's wee and poo is also a good method of checking your horse's health. The urine (wee!) should smell fairly strongly, and be a cloudy consistency and fairly dark yellow in colour.

Coat and skin

One of the most visible signs of an unhealthy horses can often be their coat. Try touching your horse's skin - it should always be flexible, supple and you should be able to move it around with ease. Just as is the case for many other animals, if you pick up a fold or flap of skin and release it, it should flatten itself out again very quickly. If it doesn't there's a chance that your horse is dehydrated.

Your horse's coat should be shiny and smooth to the touch, with little or no loose hair visible.

I'm listening!

Just as the eyes are crucial to sight, your horse's ears are crucial to hearing. It's always a good idea to make sure your horses is using it's ears to their full effect. The ears should appear alert and follow you around when you are moving close to your horse.

Horse tails

Your horse's tail is more important than you think and can also be used as an indicator of your horse's health. It should be shiny and free from droppings. It's always a good idea to check that your horse makes good use of it when removing any nearby flies.

Watch out for bare patches or areas that may have been rubbed. Also make sure that the tail is vertical when your horse trots away - if your horse is holding it to the side, it could indicate a problem.

These are simply guidelines and tips to spotting potential problems in your horse. They are intended and simple advice to help ensure your horse is healthy and fighting fit. If you notice anything of concern, you should consult your vet.