How to monitor your horse’s heart

You'll need to take his heart rate after as well as before exercise

You'll need to take his heart rate after as well as before exercise

Pumping day in and day out, your horse’s heart is responsible for circulating blood oxygen and nutrients around his body, so like a human heart, it’s pretty hard working. Regularly checking his heart rate is a good way to ensure he’s staying fit and healthy. Here’s how to do it.

“I would urge you to buy a stethoscope to listen to your horse’s heart,” says equine vet Keesjan Cornelisse. “Place it on his left side, behind his elbow (just in front of where the girth sits) when he’s calm and resting. Using your watch, count how many beats per minute you hear and write it down.”

Simple heart rate monitors for horses are now also available and can be used while you’re riding as well, which can be useful especially when monitoring competition horses.

“Monitoring your horse’s heart rate is one way to assess what’s normal for him,” explains Keesjan. “Take his heart rate when he’s resting and then straight after exercise. While all horses are different, your horse’s resting heart rate will be between 24 and 40 beats per minute.

“After exercise, there will be a marked drop in your horse’s heart beat in the first few minutes, with most horses returning to baseline rates in 10 to 15 minutes. In long distance endurance riding this may be longer.”

Heart rate recovery times can be useful as an indicator of how fit your horse is. If it takes longer for his heart rate to drop, it’s an indication you may be pushing him beyond his limits.

“Regularly measuring your horse’s heart rate recovery times after standard exercise can help you keep an eye on things, and can also be a handy record for your vet,” Keesjan adds. 

Read the full feature about the heart and much more in the July issue of Your Horse magazine, on sale now. Find out what's in the latest issue here.