How to measure your horse’s respiratory rate

By Wendy Talbot on 05 May 2018

What should your horse’s respiratory rate be? Your horse’s resting breathing rate should be around 8-12 breaths per minute

Your horse’s respiratory rate can change rapidly whenever your horse is excited or anxious so it’s important to make sure your horse is relaxed and at rest before checking his breathing.

How to do it

Stand at your horse’s shoulder, facing the tail.  As the horse breathes in and out the chest and the abdomen will move and it is easiest to see movement at the flank.  Remember one movement in and out is one respiration.  If you are careful you may also be able to feel the air come out of his nostrils. Count the number of breaths over one minute and also listen to his breathing – it should sound clear with no squeaking or rattling and the breaths should be even and not too shallow or too deep.

Watch our video on how to measure your horse’s respiratory rate (courtesy of brookfarmstables)

What are vital signs?

The principal vital signs for horses are temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate and mucus membrane colour. Knowing the normal range of your horse’s vital signs and how to take them will help you to monitor his health and can give you an important early warning that something could be wrong. Being familiar with your horse’s normal weight is also important because changes may indicate ill health. Always call your vet immediately if any vital signs are not as expected.

Related Content:

How to assess the colour of your horse’s mucous membranes



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Wendy graduated from Bristol University in 1999. She then went on to complete a residency at Liverpool University and holds a European Diploma in Equine Internal Medicine. After working in practice for 13 years, she joined Zoetis in 2012 as the National Equine Veterinary Manager.

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