To be able to take the best possible care of your horse you need to know your horse, and what is normal for him or her really well. This will help you notice a very slight change in your horse and can help you pick up on the early signs of an illness or injury much quicker.
It’s worth noting that vets spend around two years at veterinary school learning what is ‘normal’ for horses before spending another three years learning all the many diseases and conditions that can affect horses. As a horse owner, it is easy to think that you need to know every condition going, but actually focusing on knowing normal is the easiest way to notice a subtle change in your horse.
There are standard vital signs that all owners can measure, such as temperature, pulse and respiration rates. Each of these signs has a normal range, and it is very useful to establish where your horse sits within these ranges.
Another way of knowing normal for your horse is to monitor the droppings that your horse produces, both the number and consistency, as well as the colour and any changes. Horse owners spend a fair amount of time picking up droppings, and you probably make a mental assessment of your horse’s poo each time you muck out or poo pick a field without even realising it.
Knowing how your horse normally behaves is also important, as changes in behaviour could be the first sign that your horse is unwell. For instance, if you have a horse who is normally alert and interested in what is going on in the yard and you find him standing at the back of the stable with his head down that is a clear change of behaviour. Noting this might then make you look for other signs that your horse is not quite himself, such as perhaps not eating his feed or reduce faecal output, both of which can be early colic signs.
If you have established ‘normal’ for these vital signs this can also be very useful information for your vet in the event of your horse being unwell or off colour. Don’t forget, you are the expert on your horse. Having measured these vital signs for your horse it is also essential to share this information with others that might care for your horse, such as livery yard staff, or a friend that you are leaving in charge of your horse whilst you are away on holiday. A sensible step is to have these jotted down in any yard records, or perhaps within your horse first aid kit.
If you would like to know more about what to have in your measuring vital signs for your horse, how wounds heal, the early signs of colic and how to cope with a horsey emergency you can register for more details about our online Horse First Aid Courses using the link below: