Perform a daily health check on your horse before working with them. Observe their body language, ears, eyes, appetite, water intake, and manure. Check for any signs of illness or discomfort, and listen to their abdominal sounds. Monitor their vital signs and note any changes. This routine is important for maintaining your horse’s health and comfort.
A health check of the horse is part of good equestrian practice and should be performed daily and before working the horse. This involves a few simple observations that can be obtained during the first few moments of greeting your horse.
If your horse is not stalled, you may want to separate him from his herd to get an accurate assessment. First you will need to check your horse’s body language. If he has his head down, he may be sleeping, but it could also be a sign that he’s not feeling well. Check the position of the legs to see if he is holding one leg up. This is usually a sign that he is resting. If he’s lifting a front leg, he’s probably lame. If he’s not standing, notice if he’s lying comfortably or fidgeting and restless.
Next notice, his ears and eyes. His ears should be forward and alert. Her eyes should be bright, peaceful and happy. Take note if she doesn’t look up when you approach.
A good appetite is always a sign of a healthy horse, although most horses eat even when they are not feeling well. Check that he is looking forward to his next meal and if he has finished his previous feed. Monitor her water intake. All horses should drink a minimum of five gallons of water per day, preferably closer to 10 gallons.
The most important part of your daily horse health check is your horse’s manure, as it will reveal a lot about its current state of health. A healthy horse defecates 10-12 times a day. If his stool balls are very dry and hard, he may not be drinking enough water. If they are loose, your horse’s feed may be too rich. Looseness may also indicate that she is consuming too much salt and water, or that she has an irritation in her digestive tract. Diarrhea can be an indication of an intestinal infection or it can be a result of nerves. Slime or mucus indicates an irritated bowel. If there are whole grains or hay fibers in his manure, this may mean he is eating too fast or has some dental issues that need to be addressed. If you see worms in his manure, it’s long past deworming.
After completing the above daily horse health check, if you have any suspicion that your horse is not feeling well, check his abdominal sounds. The abdomen produces sounds that indicate roughage and fluid moving through the intestines. Excessive bowel sounds by themselves aren’t a cause for concern, but their absence could indicate a problem. The rapid gurglings imply that the food is being broken down by the intestines. Long sips mean movement through the digestive tract. Listen from both sides to your horse’s stomach, behind his ribs and in front of his knee. With practice you will become familiar with what is normal for your horse.
If your suspicions continue, proceed by checking his vital signs: temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate. A slight change in your horse’s health check is no cause for alarm, but should be noted. Remember that we don’t feel the same 365 days a year and we shouldn’t expect our horses to either. Your daily health checkup of your horse should become part of your regular routine. It’s time well spent to ensure the good health and comfort of your horse.