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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


You can get additional information on your horse's overall health and the function of his circulatory system by inspecting the mucous membranes around his eyes and gums for a bright pink color and appropriate moisture. If the mucous membranes are very pale or white, the horse is suffering from a blood loss or circulatory impairment. If the gums are bright red, it indicates a toxic (poison) condition. If the gums look a grayish blue color, the horse is probably in shock.

With your horse haltered and an assistant holding him, roll back the horse's upper lip with your left hand. With your right hand on the lower jaw, exert thumb pressure on the gum above the upper incisors for about two seconds. This will blanch (squeeze the blood temporarily out of the capillaries) a spot on the gum. When you remove your thumb, a circular white spot will remain. Within one second, the spot should return to its original color. This is the capillary refill time. If it takes five to ten seconds for the color to return, your horse is showing signs of circulatory impairment. Extended capillary refill time is often seen in horses with severe colic or those that are in shock.

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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