Looking after your horse's health

Discover some simple ways to look after your horse's health - from his temperature and legs to his teeth and skin, we've got it covered here!

A healthy horse is generally a happy horse, but as he can’t speak to tell us how he feels, we have to know how to spot the signs that he’s feeling under the weather through changes in his behaviour, mood and from a visual look at him.

If your horse is happy and well, he will show signs of good health through his appearance and behaviour

If your horse is happy and well, he will show signs of good health through his appearance and behaviour

How do I know if my horse is healthy?

Whether you’re standing next to your horse in his stable or with him in his field, there are a few easy checks and signs to look out for, to make sure he’s happy inside and out. So next time when you’re with your horse, have a quick look for these obvious tell-tale signs to check that he’s happy and in condition.

Inspect his eyes and nostrils

Looking at your horse's eyes, check that they’re bright, not cloudy and free of any discharge. Similarly, his nose should be clean and have little or only clear discharge.  

Glare at his gums

Peeling back your horse’s gums, they should be a salmon pink colour, any signs that his gums have a yellowish tinge, could suggest issues with his liver.

Listen to your horse's tummy

Listening to your horse gut is something, we often don’t think about, unless there’s a concern about colic. But if you listen to both sides of your horse’s abdomen, you should hear gurgling, fluid-like and the occasional grumble which are all signs of a healthy tummy. 

Condition score your horse

You will probably know seasonally when your horse puts on a few pounds or not, but any radical changes in his body condition score, should be recorded and kept a close eye on. Running your hand over his body, you should just feel his ribs, with a good even coverage, over his quarters and no excess fat on his crest.

Troublesome teeth

Feel for sharp teeth, down the outside of his cheek

Feel for sharp teeth, down the outside of his cheek

Watch your horse as he eats, if he drops his food which is referred to as quidding, or dunks it in his water bucket, this could sound warning bells, that there might be a problem with his teeth. If he has sharp edges these can usually be felt through his cheek, but for a thorough diagnosis of the health of your horse’s teeth ask a vet or equine dental technician to examine them. In reality he should have his teeth checked every six to twelve months.

Healthy skin

Your horse’s coat and skin can tell you a lot about he’s feeling. A shiny, glossy coat with no signs of irritation and rubbing, usually shows that he’s healthy and free from any skin conditions. But his skin also can help tell you if he’s lacking in fluids. If you firmly pinch your horse’s skin on his neck and then releasing it, if it leaves an indented mark for a few seconds, this could suggest he needs to increase his water intake.

Check your horse's legs

Checking horse's leg

Glancing down at your horse's legs, feel all over his legs, checking to make sure they’re free-from bumps, lumps and blemishes. If you spot any signs of heat, swelling or wounds, you’ll need to treat them immediately or if he is seriously injured, seek advice from your vet straight away..

 

 

Check his TPR

Here are the temperature, pulse and respiration readings you want to see, to confirm your horse is fighting fit.

Temperature

Temperature

The normal temperature for a horse at rest, not having exerted himself during exercise is 37.5 and 38.5 degrees Celsius.

Pulse

An average horse should display a pulse reading of 32 beats per minute.

Respiration

Your horse at rest if healthy will take 12 – 15 breaths a minute.


Click to read more about how to take your horse's TPR.


How can I keep my horse healthy?

Health is all about looking after the inside and outside of your horse. There’s no point in bandaging him up and keeping him in a comfy fully bedded stable if he’s not feed the right nutrients, offered a chance to stretch his legs and in a simulating environment with other horses. Here are three areas which will improve your horse’s well-being.

Feeding

Devise a feeding plan for your horse that matches his fitness levels, condition which meets the demands of the work being asked of him. He should have a balanced diet with all the right nutrients to keep him happy within himself. If confused by all the nutrients and feeds on offer in your local feed store, then speak to a nutritionist.

Exercise

Horses in turnout field

Your horse like us, need to move around, as otherwise they feel they live a life of captivity and control. This doesn’t mean he needs a full-on fitness regime, it could be simple daily turn-out, lunging or some ridden work. This will not only keep his mind active, but his joints supple.

Mind

Trapped in a stable with no company or in a bare paddock, doesn’t say stimulating environment to your horse. To keep him happy in his mind, make sure he has access to see other horses and plenty of ab-lib forage, whether that’s grass, hay or haylage as this will keep him occupied for longer. Adding a few stable toys to his home or turning him out in a paddock with lots to see, will see him happier and ultimately healthier.


When to call the vet

Seeing your horse clearly not himself, can be quite stressful and upsetting, but acting quick and seeking advice could reassure you as well as allowing your horse a quicker recovery should he not be well. Obviously any signs that indicate lameness, colic, pain or serious swellings then pick up the phone and call the vet immediately.


Do you have a veteran horse?

Learn how to keep your veteran horse healthy - click here.