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Cherry Hill's
Horsekeeping Almanac

  Horse Health Care
Horse Handling
& Grooming
How To Think
Like A Horse
Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac
Horse Health Care by Cherry Hill
Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill


October 2003

This newsletter is a personal letter from me to you,
a fellow horse owner and enthusiast.
My goal is to answer some of your questions and send you interesting stories and helpful tips for your
horse care, training, and riding.

Vital Signs Issue

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Vital signs measure a horse's body functions and are a good indication of his overall state of health. Learn how to take your horse's temperature, pulse, respiration, capillary refill time, perform the pinch test and become adept with a stethoscope for listening to his heart, lungs, and intestines. Know what is normal for most adult horses. But every horse is different, so know what is normal for each of your horses so you will know when there is a problem. To establish normals, take the vital signs twice a day for three Horse Health Care by Cherry Hilldays and average the readings. Choose various times of day but always when the horse is at rest, not when he has just been working or is excited. Write them in your horse's record. Then, when your horse becomes ill, you can take his vital signs and compare them to his normals. This is valuable information to have on hand when you call your veterinarian.

Click on a Vital Sign below to change pages

Pinch Test
Capillary Refill Time


A horse's normal resting respiration rate is usually between 12 and 25 breaths per minute. One breath is measured as one inhalation and one exhalation. The ratio of the pulse to the respiration rate is often a more significant measure of stress than each of the actual figures are. Depending on the horse's age, his normal resting pulse to respiration ratio should range from 4:1 to 2:1. If the ratio become 1:1 or 1:2 (called inversion), the horse is suffering from oxygen deprivation which indicates serious stress. When a horse is exercising heavily, it is easy to measure his respiration rate by watching his nostrils dilate and relax (each cycle counts as one breath) or by watching his ribs move in and out. However, this is very had to detect in a resting horse so the best way to determine a respiration rate is to use a stethoscope on the trachea. With the ear pieces in your ears and facing forward, press the bell firmly into the underside of the horse's neck about four inches below the throatlatch. Count the breaths for fifteen seconds and multiply by four. Alternatively, you can try to obtain a respiration rate by listening to his lungs but it takes more practice and experience this way. Place the stethoscope midway down the heart girth on the left side. You will hear the quality of the breathing process in his lungs but might not be able to identify definite breaths.

Adapted from Horse Health Care.


That's it for this month. Don't forget, when you ride, keep your mind in the middle and a leg on each side.

Cherry Hill

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