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How to Check Your Horse’s Heart Rate

The heart rate can be taken without a stethoscope, but having a stethoscope makes the job easier. An inexpensive stethoscope can be purchased at a drug or horse supply store that will be sufficient to hear the heartbeat and determine a heart rate (pulse) and respiratory rate. If a stethoscope is not handy, the pulse can be taken from the facial artery, which is on the bottom side of the jaw in a shallow groove beneath the last cheek tooth. Count the number of beats for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to calculate the heart rate in beats per minute. Remember, any excitement by the horse will increase the pulse rate.

If a stethoscope is available, listen to the heart on the left side of the horse’s chest, just behind the elbow. Each sound of the heart is considered one beat. Although the normal heart rate for most horses is 32 to 36 beats per minute, some horses have lower heart rates, 24 beats per minute, or maybe slightly higher heart rates, 40 beats per minute. Foal heart rates vary depending on age. Newborn foals have a heart rate of between 80 to 100 beats per minute. Foals which are a few weeks to a few months of age will have heart rates of 60 to 80 beats per minute.

For more information on horse health care, check out the Basic Horse Care and Management Learning Lesson.