I believe that good horse care is part of being an accomplished equestrian.Â Â I’m a fairly good horse owner “vet”.Â Â Â So I can put a check mark by one step in accomplishing my dream.Â Â Yea!!!
I’ve had the good fortune to work for and with some wonderful vets, whom haveÂ taught me a lot.Â My current vet, whom I love and pray never ever retires, lets me keep lots of supplies on hand and willingly talks me through things on the phone before he comes out to the barn.Â Â Â He always stress to me how important it is that horse owners know their horse.Â Knowing what’s “normal” for your horse is absolutely necessary if you’re going to spot trouble early.Â Here are some things to check and be familiar with:
Vital Signs:Â Normal horse vital signs are:Â Temperature:Â 99 – 101 F;Â Have a horse thermometer.Â Tie a string through the little loop in the end so you canÂ tie it to your horse’s tail to prevent it from dropping and breaking.Â Pulse:Â 40 – 50 beats per minute;Â Learn how to take your horse’s pulse and practice.Â Â Respiration:Â 8 – 15 breaths per minute.Â Â Learn how to count respirations and practice.Â Â Â Â I Â keep an index card with the normal values written on it in my barn.Â That way, when my horse is sick, its late at night, and I’m worried, I’m not trying to remember what’s normal.
Gums: Your horse’s gums should usually be a pale pink.Â Check them when you know he’s healthy to become familiar with normal color.Â You can also check capillary refill time on his gum.Â Push lightly on the gum, so that it turns whitish.Â The normal pale pink color should return within a second or two.Â Capillary refill time and the basic color of the gum both give an indication of blood circulation.
Dehydration:Â Normal horses consume about 5 gallons of water a day.Â Keeping an eye on your horse’s drinking habits is very important.Â For example, horses can colic if they do not drink enough water.Â Sometimes horses will not drink freezing cold water in the winter, which can lead to colic.Â To check for potential dehydration, pinch a bit of skin on your horse’s neck.Â The skin should be supple and go right back down.Â Skin which stays a bit “tented” points to possible dehydration.
Tummy Sounds: a.k.a. “gut sounds“:Â Put your ear to your horse’s side, right behind their last rib.Â You should hear tummy rumblings.Â No rumbling is a bad sign, particularly if you already suspect colic.Â Make sure to listen on both sides.Â Â Again, listen when you know your horse is healthy so you’ll know what’s normal.
Eating Habits: Does your horse dive right in to his hay and grain or is he a more leisurely eater?Â Does he finish everything immediately or sort of pick over his hay for a few hours?Â Knowing his regular eating habits will let you know when he’s “off his feed”.Â Dropping grain out of his mouth as he chews could be a sign that he needs his teeth floated.
Gaits: Watch your horse move at the walk, trot, and canter.Â If you can, have a friend lead him straight towards you and straight away from you at the walk and trot so you can observe his movements that way as well.Â Catching slight lameness can be extremely difficult but (am I beginning to sound like a broken record here?) if you don’t know what’s normal, you cannot know what’s not normal!Â Know if he’s stiffer on one side versus the other, if he has stifle issues, if he has a slight lameness that he warms out of, etc.
I think those are the basics.Â Next week I’ll talk about what I keep in my “horse medicine cabinet”.
Nikki update:Â The vet is coming out Thursday morning to look at the awful bump on his leg, which is neither better nor worse.Â I lunged him yesterday and he looked sound but I still want my vet’s go ahead to put him back to work.
(Danelle left 8 Women Dream in March of 2010 and is still workingÂ on her dream is to become an accomplished equestrian)