Horse owners should know how to evaluate the basic health parameters of their animals, including temperature, pulse (heart rate), and respiration, better known by the acronym TPR. They also should know how to evaluate capillary refill time to judge the horse’s circulatory health.
Here, we sought the experience of Doug Byars, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM (internal medicine), ACVECC (emergency and critical care). Byars began his career at the University of California, Davis, then worked at the University of Georgia before moving to Kentucky, where he spent more than two decades heading up the internal medicine clinic at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, and then operated Byars Equine Advisory LLC in Georgetown, Ky.
The easiest place to take your horse’s heart rate is the mandibular artery located just under the jaw. To take the pulse there you should have control of your horse in a quiet location. Curl the fingers of your hand and place them in the groove between your horse’s jaws. Pull your fingers back toward the nearest jawbone (mandible) until you feel a cordlike structure. Press that slightly against the jawbone and you will feel the pulse beating. The pulse is the blood flowing in response from the heart beating.
Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four to get the horse’s resting heart rate. Resting heart rate in an adult horse is 36-44 beats per minute. The heart rate in a racing horse can exceed 200 beats per