Respiration can be taken by watching the horse’s chest move in and out (an inhale and exhale is one breath) or feeling the air come out of the nostrils. The stethoscope can be used to listen to the breaths as the air travels across the trachea when the horse inhales and exhales. Respiration characteristics should also be noted. Is the sound clear? Are the breaths shallow or deep? Is there any abnormal squeaking or crackling sound associated with the breathing?

The normal respiratory rate for adult horses is eight to 12 breaths per minute. Newborn foals have respiratory rates that are 60 to 80 breaths per minute. Older foals have resting respiratory rates from 20 to 40 breaths per minute. Remember, if your horse becomes excited for any reason or the environmental temperature and humidity is very high, the respiratory rate can be temporarily elevated.

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