Your Horse’s Respiration & Pulse
If the horse is experiencing trouble from an allergy condition, such as the heaves, you will notice that he will push the air out of his lungs then push again. He exhibits a double lift respiration in this case, and if you listen at the nostrils you can hear a “crackling” sound coming from the lungs. This latter symptom is not necessarily indicative of heaves in that it is often present in other forms of lung and respiratory problems.
While listening to the air flow at the nostrils, check the odor of the horses’ breath (also check the odor of the mouth.) It should have a fairly sweet smell – somewhat of a normal feed smell. If he is having trouble with colic, his breath will be quite bad. The bad breath also might indicate that he is having a sinus problem most often caused by a bad tooth. This is particularly true if the bad odor comes only from one of the nostrils.
When you have reason to believe your horse is not feeling well you should take his pulse. You should be interested in two aspects of it: the rate, which indicates the number of times per minute the heart is beating, and the quality (feeble or strong). The pulse should be taken while the horse is at rest, not immediately after some exertion. The normal pulse rate of a thousand pound horse ranges between 36 to 49 beats per minute. If you want, you can put your ear to the left side of his chest just behind the elbow, and listen directly to his heart-beat. An easier way is to feel the artery that is on the lower jaw just at the front of the heavy jaw muscle. You’ll find that this becomes easier to do with a little practice. Place your index and middle finger on the area of the artery and shift around until you feel pulsations of blood going through. Don’t count for an entire minute; most horses won’t stand still for that long. the best way is to count to ten (multiply by six) or 15 seconds (multiply by four). If the pulse is above 60, he is feeling quite bad from some cause. The two most usual causes are overexertion or considerable pain located somewhere in his abdomen (colic). Call the vet if colic is suspected.