5 Information You Must Know For Physical Management Of Your Horse Colic 2021


Managing your horse’s health requires a knowledge of equine anatomy. What’s going on with your horse’s hooves? Her gut? Is she getting enough exercise? All of these factors will help you prevent and manage colic. 

Basic horse care skills are important to the overall health of your horse. As you learn about your horse’s physical nature, you will develop your own personal “horse sense;” one that will help you make smart decisions about your horse’s environment and wellness needs. 

Take a few moments every day to give your horse a daily wellness checkup. Run your hands over her body, feeling for lumps, bumps, or hot spots. Look into those big brown eyes—are they clear and bright? She should be breathing normally and nudging you for a treat. Early detection is important for all equine disorders—not just colic.

Equine Dental Care Prevents Colic

Colic may be a pain in the belly area, but your horse’s teeth can contribute to this condition.

Your horse’s teeth continue to erupt throughout her life and she wears them down by grinding her food. Wild horses graze continuously on rough grasses so their teeth are well worn but the diet of domestic horses is less wearing. Her teeth may develop sharp edges or points that hinder normal chewing and grinding. 

It’s important to her digestion that her food be ground into very small particles. Painful points may cause your horse to swallow large food particles. These bigger particles irritate and block the intestine and may cause an impaction colic.

The earlier you catch equine dental problems, the better, so it’s important to schedule routine dentistry procedures. The American Association of Equine Practioners recommends dental exams one to two times per year to ensure that your horse’s teeth are in good condition.

Signs can be obvious (pain, mouth irritation) or subtle (dropping food, undigested food particles in manure, tongue lolling, excess salivation, bucking, failing to stop or turn, bad breath or facial swelling). Some horses might show no signs because they simply adapt to their discomfort!

Equine dental technicians can be certified through a number of different organizations such as the American Veterinary Dental Society or the International Association of Equine Dentists

Have your veterinarian or equine dentist thoroughly examine and float your horse’s teeth at least once a year. Routine preventive equine dentistry can avoid more serious and painful problems in the future. 

How To Check Horse Heart Rate?

Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Learn to check your horse’s heart rate to evaluate your horse’s physical condition. An increase in heart rate can be associated with pain, dehydration, fever and other problems. A normal resting heart rate for an adult horse is about 30 to 40 heartbeats per minute.

A heart rate of 50 or higher in an adult horse at rest may mean the horse is in physical distress. 

Younger horses have higher heart rates. The average heart rates for young horses are as follows: Foals (70-120 bpm), Yearlings (45-60 bpm), two-year olds (40-50 bpm).

You’ll need a stethoscope and a stopwatch, digital timer or watch with a second hand.

  1. Stand on your horse’s left side, facing his left elbow. 
  2. Insert the stethoscope earpieces into your ears and place the bell of the stethoscope behind the point of his elbow. Press it gently into his armpit. 
  3. Listen for your horse’s heartbeat. It will have both a “lug” and a “dub” component. Count the two together as one beat: lub-dub. Lub-dub.
  4. Using a watch with a second hand, a stopwatch, or a digital timer, count the number of beats in a 15-second period.
  5. Multiply by 4 for beats-per-minute.

Take your horse’s heart rate at different times of the day. Try it on hot days, cold days, in the morning and early evening. A variety of different readings will help you get an accurate picture of what’s normal for your horse.

How To Manual Check Horse Pulse Rate In Foot?

Check a digital horse pulse rate to help determine pain and inflammation in the foot and hoof. Finding the pulse at your horse’s foot takes a little practice, so try it before you suspect a problem.

  1. Kneel down on the side of your horse’s left front leg, and place your index finger around the left side of the fetlock joint at its lower edge.
  2. Feel with your finger (not your thumb…you might feel your own pulse!) for a cord-like bundle beneath your touch.
  3. Practice this when your horse is calm…press too softly, and you won’t feel anything. Press too hard or you’ll constrict blood flow. So get the hang of it before an emergency!

An elevated pulse rate in foot can be a sign of a hoof problem. A strong digital pulse can indicate pain associated with a foot abscess, bruise, laminitis or lameness. Watch closely and call your veterinarian if you suspect a problem.

How To Read Horse Gut Sounds?

Learn to read horse gut sounds — there’s information in those gurgling sounds coming from your horse’s intestines and stomach. Dramatically increased or decreased gut sounds can indicate colic, so listen to your horse’s belly…it might be telling you something!

Practice checking gut sounds when your horse is healthy. That way, you’ll know what’s normal for your horse.

  1. Have an assistant hold your horse on a lead rope or tie her in cross ties.
  2. Place a stethoscope or your ear against your horse’s belly in front of her flanks.
  3. Listen 3 to 5 minutes for a complete cycle of sounds. You should hear two to four quiet gurgles per minute and a loud grumble every three to four minutes.
  4. Repeat this procedure on the opposite side. Each side of the horse will have distinct gut sounds.
  5. Listen for an increase or decrease in frequency and intensity of gut sounds; this may indicate a problem. Increased gut sounds can mean your horse is suffering from spasmodic or gas colic. A decrease or complete lack of gut sounds can indicate impaction colic.
  6. Call your veterinarian if changes in gut sounds are accompanied by symptoms such as distress, pain, diarrhea, fever, or loss of appetite.

Get familiar with your horse’s gut sounds. Learn to recognize any differences or changes so you can spot dangerous colic in its early stages. Early action can improve the outcome of colic. 

How To Take Horse Respiratory Rate?

If your horse has not recently exercised but is breathing rapidly, it could be a sign of distress or illness. To take a horse’s respiratory rate, you need to attach it with a second hand or stopwatch. You may also need a stethoscope if you’re following method number 2. 

Practice taking respiratory rates when your horse is healthy. Try it when he is at rest and after mild exercise so you can hear the difference.

  • Method 1: Manual Respiratory Rate Check
  1. Watch or feel your horse’s ribcage/belly for one minute. 
  2. Count one inhale and one exhale as one breath. 
  3. If you are having trouble seeing the ribcage move, you can place your hand in front of your horse’s nostril to feel the exhale. 
  4. Count the number of breaths in a 15-second period and multiply by 4 for breaths-per-minute. 
  • Method 2: Using A Stethescope to Check Respiratory Rate

A stethoscope gives a more detailed report of your horse’s respiratory activity. Because it is more sensitive than your ear alone, it is  helpful for hearing mucus or obstructions in the windpipe.

  1. Place the bell of the stethoscope in the center of your horse’s throat, 6 to 8 inches below his throatlatch. 
  2. Listen to the air rush by as he inhales and exhales. 
  3. Count the number of breaths in a 15-second period and multiply by 4 for breaths-per-minute. 

If your horse is breathing heavily for no obvious reason, it could be a sign of illness or distress. Learn to take your horse’s respiratory rate is important. It’s not difficult, and it can give your veterinarian some much needed insight into your horse’s overall condition. 

An inexpensive stethoscope is a good addition to your first aid kit. Plus, you can hang it around your neck and look all smart and medically. Very cool.

Final words on equine respiratory rate tips:

  1. Rapid breathing at rest requires veterinary attention. 
  2. Watch abdomen for stressful breathing.
  3. A horse should spend equal time inhaling and exhaling.
  4. The respiration rate should never exceed the pulse rate.

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