Temperature, Pulse and Respiration in a Horse

Last Updated on March 18, 2022 by Allison Price

Equine Vital Signs

Temperature and pulse (TPR) are basic parameters that every horse owner should be familiar with if they want to properly care for their horse. These vital signs can be very helpful for you and your veterinarian if you suspect your horse may have a serious illness. Knowing the values of these vital signs can give you a great idea about your horse’s physiological condition.

Normal TPR

First, you need to understand what normal is in order to determine if your horse has abnormal TPR values. The normal heart rate for horses is between 32 and 36 beats per hour, but some horses have higher or lower heart rates (24 beats per min, 40 beats per minutes).

A thermometer, a digital stethoscope and a watch that has a second hand, or counts seconds, are all necessary. Because it takes less time to read a digital thermometer, and is more flexible than a mercury glass thermometer, a digital thermometer is recommended.

Pulse and Respiration

A small hole should be made at the end of the thermometer so that a piece of brightly colored string, tape or string can be attached to locate it if it gets lost or dropped in the stall. You can attach the string to the horse’s tail by placing a small clamp or clothespin at its end. The temperature can then be read. This will allow you to keep the thermometer in its place. These thermometers can be purchased at any pharmacy.

Stethoscopes are used to clearly hear the heart beat and sounds of breathing. A cheap stethoscope is available at any drug or horse supply shop. It will allow you to hear your heartbeat, determine your heart rate (pulse), and determine your respiratory rate.


The thermometer can be used to measure the horse’s rectal temperature. Do not approach the horse directly from behind, but instead stand to the side of the horse in the event that they kick. Move the horse’s tail, raise or move it and place the thermometer in the anus. The top of thermometers that are intended for use with livestock has a ring. The ring can be attached using a string with a clip attached at the other end. When you are taking the horse’s temperature, clip the clip to his tail.

Horses’ normal rectal temperature is 99.5 to 101.5degF (37.5 – 38.6oC). Foals younger than one month old have a temperature range of 100.0 to 102.0degF (37.5 to 38.8oC). Hypothermia can be a problem in newborn foals. To stimulate blood flow, you can rub the foal’s coat with blankets or towels.

A horse with a higher than normal rectal temperature will have a fever. Horses have a temperature that is either normal (fever), normal (hypothermia), normal (normal).


A stethoscope is not necessary to take the heart beat. However, it makes it easier. A stethoscope may not be necessary if the pulse is not available. The facial artery is located on the lower side of the jaw, in a narrow groove below the last cheek tooth. To calculate your heart rate in beats per hour, count the beats for 15 seconds. Next multiply the time by four. Keep in mind that horses can increase their pulse rate if they are excited.

If you have a stethoscope, you can listen to the heart just below the elbow on the left side. Each heartbeat is one sound. An adult horse’s heart rate is between 32 and 36 beats per hour. The heart rate of foals varies depending on their age. Foals born new have a heart beat of 80-100 beats per minute. Foals aged between a few weeks and a few months will have heart rates between 60 and 80 beats per hour.


You can observe the horse’s breathing by watching his chest move in and outside (an inhale/exhale is one breath), or by feeling the air leave the nostrils. You can listen to the horse exhale and inhale, using the stethoscope. It is also important to note the characteristics of your horse’s respiration. Does the sound make sense? Is the sound clear? Are there unusual crackling or squeaking sounds associated with breathing?

Adult horses have a normal respiratory rate of eight to twelve breaths per minute. Newborn foals can breathe 60-80 breaths per minute. Older foals can rest at 20-40 breaths per minute. If your foal or horse becomes excited, it is possible for the respiratory rate to temporarily increase.

Time for Capillary Refill

Mucous membrane color, also known as gum color, is another indicator of health. Healthy horses have pink gums that feel soft and moist. You can test the capillary refill time by pressing down on the gum just above the front incisors. Then, quickly remove it. Capillary refill time is the time it takes for the area turn pink from white to pink. Normal refill time takes about 2 seconds. Capillary refill times that exceed 2 seconds should be noted and contacted by your veterinarian.

Knowing your horse’s vital signs can greatly increase the chances of your horse surviving an accident or serious illness.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!