How to Tell My Horse Is Healthy?
Whilst it might seem obvious to identify signs that your horse is healthy, a checklist for further peace of mind is always a useful thing to have. This blog recognises signs that your horse is healthy, and also gives advice of signs that your horse might be struggling with his/her health.
Horses are not too dissimilar to humans when it comes to their attitude. If you notice that your horse is active and has an alert demeanour, it is likely your horse is healthy. Healthier horses are typically more social with other horses and will engage with their surroundings a lot more than an unhealthy horse. If your horse is approachable and allows you to touch him/her without fuss, signs are your horse is happy and healthy. Another positive sign is that your horse will occasionally roll. And when they do roll, they will shake the dust off. If your horse is rolling excessively, there could be an issue such as colic. In which case you should seek medical advice.
If your horse has a healthy appetite, it is likely that they are healthy themselves. To achieve a healthy appetite, it is important that your horse is eating the right foods. Hay is one of the main foods for horses, and if your horse hay is stored properly it will benefit your horses overall health. Horses can eat a range of foods such as apples, bananas and carrots, but it is of paramount importance that they are benefiting from the nutrients gained from grass, hay and haylage. If your horse lacks an appetite, they could be struggling with an infectious disease, or have issues with their teeth. If your adult horse has a temperature above 38°C, it is our advice that you go and see a veterinarian.
A healthy horse will have clear eyes that are fully open and clean. If your horse's eyes are cloudy or discoloured, there could be an issue and you should continue to monitor your horses' eyes. If the issues do not get better or continue to get worse consult a veterinarian. This also applies to eyes that are suffering from discharge or have a full glazed appearance.
Your horse’s nose should be clear and free of excessive mucus. However, it is common for a horse to have a small amount of clear liquid come from the nostril. With a little common sense, you can easily assess your horse’s nose.
Legs and Feet
Your horse should be stood with its weight evenly spread over all four feet. Taking the weight off of hind legs is normal, but it is not normal if your horse is doing this with his/her forelegs. When assessing your horse’s legs, be sure that there are no bumps, swelling, cuts or loss of hair. The horse’s feet should also be heat free. You should take time every day to check over your horse's legs. After regular assessment, you will start to recognise what your horse’s legs feel like when they’re healthy.
Clear signs that your horse is healthy comes from their vitals. Be sure that you are regularly checking your horse's heart rate, breathing, gums and intestinal sounds.
A healthy horse’s heartbeat will be around 24-44 bpm (beats per minute) - dependent on the size of the horse.
Healthy horses should breath 10-24 times per minute.
Healthy horse gums should be moist and pink. If you push your finger firmly against your horse’s gums, the pushed point should return back to its original pink colour within two seconds when you stop pushing.
A healthy horse’s intestinal will make gurgling, gas / wind sounds. If your horse's intestines make no sounds, it could be a sign of colic.
If your horse is getting the right amount of nutrients from his/her feed, he/she will have a glowing coat that generally looks healthy. On the other hand, if your horse has a dull coat, it is a sign your horse is not as healthy as he/she should be, in which case you should look at providing more nutrients to the horse's diet.
Weight and Body Condition
Horses vary in weight depending on breed and size. But if your horse’s overall weight and body condition is good, the signs are that your horse is healthy. The body condition of a horse is mainly measured by visually observing them. A horse in perfect condition will have ribs that you can feel but cannot see. Muscle definition will be visible, and the horse will look smooth and not rounded. If your horse is bony and the spine can be felt under the skin, your horse is too skinny. It is easy to mistake a skinny horse with a fit and muscular racehorse, so if you’re working with racehorses, be sure to continuously evaluate their weight to avoid confusion. The first sign that your horse is too fat is the ribs. If you cannot feel your horse's ribs, it is a clear sign your horse is too fat and as such, not healthy.
A clear sign your horse is healthy is through their manure. If your horse passes manure eight to 12 times a day, it’s a good sign your horse is healthy. It is also worth inspecting your horse’s manure, and assessing the ‘three C’s’ - colour, consistency, and control.
Manure tends to be a shade of green. If your horse's manure has a brownish tone, it is a sign of low-quality hay, which will have an impact on your horse. You should also keep an eye out for red (bloody) manure. Any signs of redness should be noted, and you should remain cautious.
A good sign that your horse is healthy is when the manure is moist (not wet). The pile should be made up of formed faecal balls. Whilst it is not unusual for horse’s manure to look like a cow pie when they’ve been working hard or are nervous, it is unusual if it occurs regularly. If this occurs regularly, your horse could be experiencing gastro-intestinal issues.
Horses typically pass manure around eight to 12 times a day. This will be more frequent for a stallion or young foals. There are circumstances where a horse will pass more manure than usual - such as social situations - but a good rule of thumb is to ensure your horse is passing manure around 12 times. If you observe your horse passing manure when he is with the herd, this is a good sign. It is an example of your horse alerting the herd that he/she is present and is a sign of a positive attitude.
Horses should drink regularly and take in around 22-45 litres of water a day. This is, of course, dependent on the amount of physical activity that the horse takes part in during the day. But as an indicator on normal days, ensure your horse is drinking around 22-45 litres a day. If your horse is taking in this amount of water, it is a sign your horse is healthy. If your horse refuses to drink water, it could be a sign that your watering area needs cleaning. It can also be a sign that your horse is nervous, in which case you should work towards helping your horse to remain calm when he/she requires water.
If you use these signs as a good indicator of whether your horse is healthy, you will most likely keep a mentally and physically healthy horse. If you experience any difficulties or have concerns that your horse might be unhealthy it is advisable to seek expert advice from a veterinarian.