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Taking a horse’s temperature and pulse 

A horse’s normal temperature is 38°C, though this may vary by half a degree either way.

The horse’s temperature is taken using an equine thermometer (modern digital versions are preferable to mercury-based ones).

Care must be taken when performing this procedure. Ideally, the horse should be held by an assistant. After being lubricated, the thermometer should be partially inserted into the horse’s rectum and tilted slightly so that it rests against the rectal wall. The thermometer should be held in place for a full minute before being removed and wiped clean. The reading may then be viewed.

The pulse rate of a horse at rest is 30 to 40 heartbeats per minute. This rate increases normally with exercise and excitement, but can also increase when the horse has a fever or is in acute pain. Likewise, the horse’s normal breathing rate can also alter, or appear laboured, indica-ting possible ill health or distress.

The pulse can be taken at the point where the facial artery passes under the lower jaw. When the artery has been located, light pressure should be applied, using the flat of two or three fingers. The number of pulses over a period of 15 seconds should be counted, then this number multiplied by four to obtain the pulse rate. If the horse shows signs of a fever or appears to be in pain, a veterinary surgeon should be consulted.

It is worth practising taking a horse’s pulse before the actual need arises.