Horse’s vital signs

If you own a horse, it’s important to know how to take your horse’s  vitals signs.  Typically we are talking about taking their Pulse, taking their Temperature and taking their Respiration.  Generally when you call your vet expressing a concern in your horses health, the vet may ask you what your horse’s vital signs are.   With a little practice, you will be able to take your horse’s vital signs and know if they are with in the the normal range.  In today’s post I am just going to cover taking the Pulse.  It’s a good idea to take your horse’s pulse rate when they are healthy, so you can have a good base line to go on.  It’s also worth noting that some breeds can have slightly different pulse rates than the norm.

Taking your horses Pulse rate

There are 3 places in which you can locate the pulse.

  1.  Facial Artery, this artery runs across the lower edge of the jawbone.
  2. Radial Artery, on the back inside of the knee.
  3. Digital Artery, just below the fetlock towards the inside.
Normal Pulse rate

Adult horses heart rate is generally between 30-40 beats per minute (bpm).  While a young foal, say 2-4 weeks of age will have a higher bpm of 70-90.   Exercise, Physical Condition, Outside temperature, Sickness, Excitement and Age can definitely influence the pulse rate.   A higher than normal pulse rate in the absence of excitement or exercise can indicate dehydration, colic, shock, infection or even septicemia.   A lower than normal pulse rate can suggest low body temperature, heart disease or even pressure on the brain.

Taking the pulse via the Facial  Artery

Taking the maxillary artery pulse

The facial artery supplies blood to the horse’s face. This pulse point is relatively easy to feel.

  1. Stand slightly to the side of the horse’s head and cup your  hand with your first two fingers along the inside of the jawbone, just below the heavy muscles of the cheek.  Be careful not to use your thumb, or you will feel your own pulse!
  2. Feel along the inside of the jawbone until you consistently feel the pulse beat.
  3. Looking at your watch, count the beats for 30 seconds, then double the count to give you bpm.
    Taking the pulse via the Radial Artery

    Taking the radial artery pulse

    1. Crouch facing the limb, then place your hand around the back of the knee with the pads of your fingers pressing on the radial artery. Taking the pulse here is similar to taking your pulse at the wrist.
    2. Once your fingers locate the strong, consistent pulse beat, count the beats for 30 seconds and double the count for the bpm.
      Taking the pulse on the digital artery


      Taking the digital artery pulse

      The digital artery pulse becomes more prominent  when there is a lameness or pain in the foot.  Personally I can never find the digital pulse, unless the horse has a RAGING pulse, and then it’s usually because of an abscess.

      1. Crouch facing the limb and locate the digital artery with the pads of your fingers. The pulse may be best found on the inside or outside branch of the digital artery.
      2. Place the pads of your fingers on the artery and count the beats for 30 seconds, then double for bpm.

Check out future blog posts concerning Respiration and Temperature  And always remember, if you are ever in doubt–CALL YOUR VET.


Regrets.  Recently I spoke  to a woman who’s horse had to be euthanized from age related problems.  The horse was in his late 30’s and had a few strokes.   I expected the owner to be sad over the loss of the horse.  Relief that her horse was no longer suffering could have been another emotion.   We all feel many emotions when we lose a loved one, be it equine, canine, human, etc.

The Regrets that this woman expressed though–really got to me.   She regretted that she had not spent more time with her horse.  Regretted that she spent too much time at work.   She regretted that now she would never have that opportunity to brush him, watch him peacefully munching on hay, see him enjoying a nap outside on a sunny day, or take him on a trail ride.

Her Regrets reminded me of a Facebook meme.  It goes something like this–DON’T BE THE RICHEST WOMAN IN THE CEMETERY–JUST BUY THE HORSE NOW!

My takeaway from her experience

I don’t want to have regrets!  Want to eat that extra cookie, yet not get fat.  I want to take time from my job to spend time with family and friends,  yet not go broke.  I want to appreciate the things in life that God has given us.

We all experience loss in our lives.  Those of us who work with animals on a daily base probably experience this loss more often.  I don’t want to ever get numb to those losses.  But I DON’T want to have Regrets!   So, I’m hoping to spend more time doing the things I love and being with those that I love!

Staying safe around horses.

Staying safe around horses should be one of our main goals when working with or riding a horse.  Horses, even ponies are big compared to people.  Horses are Prey animals, as such they need the ability to react quickly and outrun a potential predator.  Staying safe around horses, requires us to often times know how they may react, BEFORE they react.  Knowing that requires lots of time around our equine friends and help from knowledgeable equestrians.

Just a few safety tips to keep in mind…

Always be confident and calm with your body language.  Your voice can have a huge impact on the horse.  Keep your voice low and soothing.  Sharp shrilly type voices will tend to make even a calm horse anxious.

Lead a horse with a lead rope, never just by its halter.  Never let the lead rope drag on the ground.  Never wrap the lead around your hand or any part of your body.  Keep the horses head turned just slightly towards you.

When wrapping legs or doing anything around the horse do not kneel on the ground.  Bending or crouching down is safer, so that you can move quickly if need be.

Be ready for the unexpected.  When we assume that a horse will not do something–THEY WILL !!!

Wear shoes that are appropriate.  Tennis shoes and sandals are not appropriate.   Funny story–I always tell people that contact me about lessons to wear a pair of shoes or boots, with about a half inch heel.   One time  a woman didn’t hear me say “half inch heel”.  She just heard me say “wear a pair of boots or shoes with Heels”.  When she arrived for her first lesson, she walked into the barn wearing these fancy shoes with 4″ stiletto heels !!!!  When I questioned her, her reply was “you said wear heels” !!  Obviously she did not ride that day !


Don’t stand directly in front of a horses head.  I’ve had my nose broken twice by being that dumb.  I learned my lesson !!


There are so many more safety tips, but I will save them for another post.  But feel free to share any safety tips you may have about staying safe around horses.

Permission to sell your horse

Do you ever feel like you do not have Permission to sell your horse?  I’m not talking about legalities, like do you have the legal right to sell your horse.  But do you ever feel like you do not have moral permission to sell your horse?

I often encounter riders who have the “wrong” horse.  But, they feel it’s “their” horse now, and they must keep it forever.  When I share a very important truth with these people, it’s like a weight has been lifted from their shoulders!

Important Truth

You bought this horse, it’s yours.  But, you are not married to it !!   In this day and age we see many, many marriages that unfortunately dissolve.  Society accepts that.  I’m not saying that’s right or wrong–I’m just saying…

As horse owners though, we sometimes put this unrealistic expectation on ourselves that our partnership with our Equine is till “death do us part”.

Obligations to our horses

We do have obligations though to our horse.  We need to make sure our horse is cared for while we own it.  And we need to do our best, when we sell or rehome our horse, that the new home is suitable.  It’s okay though, you do have permission to sell your horse.

Reasons why the partnership isn’t working

Perhaps you bought a horse, that wasn’t right for you.  Maybe you thought you had more training and experience than you actually do.   The horse may have initially seemed like it had more training than it really does.  It could be a wonderful horse for someone else, but it’s just not working for you.

Sometimes riders have a scare with a particular horse and it’s shaken their confidence.  The rider then stops riding as much, stops visiting the horse, makes excuses to avoid riding.

Perhaps you’ve outgrown your horse?  Maybe physically you don’t fit the horse anymore.  Or maybe you abilities have improved and you are ready to move on, but your horse is not able.

Horse sometimes get injured and those injuries might  now prevent the horse from doing their job.

There are also life changes that can sometimes make it better for the equine to move on to a different home.  Growing families, pregnancy, career changes can all lead to making that difficult decision to sell.

Lessons for you and Training for the horse are sometimes excellent answers to problems.  But other times those aren’t the answers.   It’s a very personal decision that only you can make.  I’m just saying You do have Permission to sell your horse.

Must haves

Everybody has their list of Must haves in their barn or tack room.   Let’s not talk about the “big” things, like saddles, bridles, helmets.   What are your everyday items you use, that you ALWAYS have on hand in your tack room?  And why?

My 5 Must haves
  1.  A hoof pick with a thick handle.   Years ago I didn’t care what the hoof pick was like, if it did the job, but today my hands hurt when I try to grip a skinny hoof pick.  So for me FAT it is !!
  2. A really STIFF brush with bristles is another of my Must haves.   I  have 10 different brushes, but I only have ONE I love and use for almost everything.   A good stiff brush can be used in place of a curry to get off most mud.  A stiff brush can give a good “scratch” to your horses “itchy spots”.   I love my STIFF brush for tails, because I’m very picky about what is used on my horses tails.  I hate mane/tail combs, therefore a good stiff brush can be used on tails to get out knots and not damage hair.
  3. Double Ended Snaps.  Next to Baler twine and Duct Tape, Double Ended Snaps are a must have.

    The snaps can fix X-ties and hold up water buckets.  The snaps can be used to secure stall doors.  Double Ended snaps can replace snaps on blankets and sheets.  Double Ended snaps can be used to attach a stud chain to a lead rope.  You get the idea, they have lots of uses!
  4. Gloves.  I have gloves of every kind all over the place!  Gloves and sunglasses are my things !!  I need gloves to ride in.  Gloves for when it’s cold, Gloves for when it’s colder.  Disposable gloves are needed for doing “icky” chores, like cleaning sheaths, or apply meds. I even have waterproof gloves.
  5. Winter helmet cover.  This item only gets seasonal use.  When it’s cold though–It can really keep you warm.  It’s also VERY inexpensive.  My current one is pink.  Pink is not MY color, but it does the job !! 
    So that’s my list of MUST HAVES.   Tell me what your Must haves are and why?  I’m feeling a need to make a tack shop run….

Sevens Ripple Glo

I’ve had lots of favorite horses in my lifetime, but  Sevens Ripple Glo is definitely in the top!  Rip  was a registered American Quarter Horse.  He was a big bodied 16.2 hand Chestnut gelding, who was 5 or 6 years old when we first met..

Our first meeting

I went with a student and her family to check out a potential new horse, for the student.  We liked him almost immediately.  During my test ride on him, as I was asking for a flying lead change,  I got to experience Rips signature move!  A BUCK !!  Later I would learn that that first buck from Rip was nothing!

A little history

Nevertheless, we all fell in love with Sevens Ripple Glo.  The student bought him and he came home to my barn.  His new owner took Rip to lots of horse shows.  They did Hunters, Dressage, Evented and even did some Jumpers.  Rip did everything asked of him with lots of enthusiasm and occasionally his famous bucks!  It was no surprise that his teenage owner and him were winning ribbons and year end awards most of the time.   Rip and his rider were a VERY talented duo.  Unfortunately when graduation time came Rip was sold, as his owner went to college.  A very large piece of me, was very sad, when he left my barn.

Fast forward

Several years later I saw Sevens Ripple Glo for sale and bought him!  I was hoping now, in his mid teens that he would have toned down his enthusiastic nature, a little…  Nope, and being a lesson horse wasn’t really HIS THING.  I competed on him, one season at 2nd and 3rd level.  FUN HORSE !

Another student fell in love with Rip, around that time and I sold him to her.  Once again Rip had a teenager head over heels in love with him.  He thrived on attention and competition.  He was always “up and ready to go”!   When this student was ready to move on I bought Rip, again.

Finally now in his early 20’s he was slightly more mellow.  An older woman leased him, and he worked a little in my lesson program.

At age 25 he competed, for the last time at CBLM Championships in VA.  Fortunately thru out his career, Rip had very few injuries or health issues.  But in his 26th year he developed an Auto-Immune disease and we humanely “put him down” a few months later.

I would never say this, while Sevens Ripple Glo was still alive–But I was one of his few riders that he never managed to BUCK OFF.   There was one buck, where I saw his left hind foot at my eye level, and had he chosen to put in buck #2…I would have “eaten dirt”.

Rest In PEACE   Sevens Ripple Glo, you were ONE OF THE BEST…

If any of you remember Rip, please comment and share your memories of him.


Pulling a horses mane

I hate the job of pulling a horses mane.  It’s very rewarding though to see a neatly pulled mane.  Owners and Students often say to me “But I like their long manes”.  If you are going to a show though, you need to present a neat and tidy horse.  In the disciplines that we compete in, that means having a neatly pulled mane.  My reply to those that like a longer mane, has always been “When in Rome do as the Romans”.  That means Pulling a horses mane, if you are going to compete in Hunter or Dressage.

Benefits of a Pulled Mane

No it won’t make your horse perform better, but it shows the judge you have taken the time to sufficiently prepare your horse for competition.

If you are braiding with traditional hunter braids or dressage braids, pulling the horses mane will make braiding easier.

It can make seeing your diagonals (especially for a novice rider) a lot easier.

Tools for the job

This is a Solo Pulling Comb.  When I first learned to pull a horse’s mane (back in the stone age) these didn’t exist.   I learned about pulling a horses mane using the old metal pulling combs.

I’m in love with the Solo Pulling Combs.  They are quicker, more efficient and generally don’t agitate the horse as much.  Learning to use either comb though, will take some practice and maybe even watching a tutorial or having an experienced friend guide you.

When pulling a horses mane, I prefer to have it slightly longer, than the norm. The old school was the mane should be 4 fingers wide in length.  Maybe I just don’t have “nimble” enough fingers, but I find 6 fingers works better for me.  Beginner “braiders” generally find the slightly longer length, easier too.

Currently all of my lesson horse look like “broodmares” with their long untidy manes.  With show season just around the corner, that will have to change!  Manes will have to be pulled.  Anyone wanting to practice their pulling mane skills–Just let me know!!  I have horse and ponies you can practice on !!

Loading and Hauling Horses

I’ve been Loading and Hauling Horses for a long time.  Some horses are easy, some not so much !  If you own a horse, there will probably come a time you will need to load and haul.   You may want to go to a horse show.  You may need to go to a vet clinic.  Moving to another farm, may be another reason.

Be Prepared in case of an emergency
  1.  If at all possible, teach your horse to load, before an emergency occurs.
  2. If you don’t have a trailer, know someone that is capable of loading and hauling horses that would be willing.  Just because someone owns their own truck and trailer, doesn’t necessarily make them knowledgeable, in this area.
  3. Have a sturdy halter available.
  4. Have a long lead rope.  A lounge Line can be very helpful.  A whip or crop is handy, to encourage.   Treats to be fed ONLY after the horse is on the trailer.
  5. Make sure the hauling rig, is in good condition and hauling ready.

Unless the horse is sick and shouldn’t be eating while being hauled, ALWAYS have hay available, in the trailer.  Just like us, on a long drive, we get bored, and so do they.  Hay can help the horse to relax, and keep them content, while traveling.  When using a hay net, make sure it is properly secured and placed high enough to avoid having a hoof in it!

Many years ago, I had the privileged of being taught by someone who I consider to be a master with loading and hauling horses.  This gentlemen was a horseman in every sense of the word.  He could read a horses thoughts before us mortals even had a clue.   The number one thing he taught me was NEVER EVER tie the horse’s head UNTIL you had something behind the horse.  You always put the partition behind the horse, or the butt bar up, BEFORE tying their head.  Why you ask?  To prevent the horse from pulling back and either injuring themselves or escaping.

Tips while driving:

Accelerate slow and smooth.  Brake softly and give yourself more room than if you were not pulling a trailer.  Take turns slower than normal .  Drive as if a passenger were standing on a flatbed behind you with NOTHING to hold onto for balance, because that’s what your horse is doing !

One last tip:

Don’t feed the horse treats, before they are on the trailer!  You are rewarding them for standing outside the trailer.  Reward them, once they are ON the trailer.

With a little know how, patience and practice you can be loading and hauling horses like a pro.

http://Welcome !! How it all began–Horse was my first word

How to put a bridle on a horse

How to put a bridle on a horse, seems to be one of the most challenging skills for a novice.  But it really doesn’t have to be.  In this post,  I will describe and use pictures to show you an EASY and SAFE way.


  1.  Have the bridle, in your left hand.  If your horse is in X ties, or tied up, remove the X ties or untie horse.  Be standing on the Left Side of the horse, between the head and the shoulders.  Place the reins over the horses head.   Having the reins up on the horses neck will keep them safely out of the way.
  2. Next remove the halter.  I prefer halters that have a snap.  But if yours does not, then just unbuckle it.  VERY IMPORTANT Keep control of the horses head, once you have removed the halter.  I keep control by placing my right hand on the side of the horse face.  This is an important step;  because later when you use your right hand on the bit your hand is already in a great spot!  What you do with the halter once it’s removed is also important.  As you gain experience you will get more coordinated .  But for now, if you are new to this skill, I would just drop it off to your left side.  You don’t want the halter where the horse could catch a foot in it, or you could get caught up in it.  But you do want the halter near by, in case you would need it in a hurry.
  3. Hold the center of the crown piece with your left hand in a fist.  Place your left hand (still in a fist) on your horses face, between and slightly above their eyes.   TIP FOR SHORTER RIDERS.  If you are short, you can hold both sides of the bridle together, several inches below the brow band, instead of holding on the crown piece.  With either method, you will place your left hand on the center of the horses head, between their eyes.  Make sure at this point that the bit is actually touching the lips of the horse.
  4. Now slide your right hand down to the mouth.  Find the bit with your finger tips.  I predominantly have the bit on my index finger, at this point.  And slide your thumb into the horses mouth.  This is where riders, get nervous.  Keep your thumb, in the corner of the horse mouth, where the bit will rest.  The horse does not have teeth in that spot, so you should be safe.  When the horse feels your thumb entering their mouth, their response is to open their mouth.  If your left hand is where I instructed in step 3, then you just raise your left hand up, as the horse opens its mouth.  The bit will then just slide right in!
  5. Then both hands can now gently guide the bridle over the horses ears, and you can begin to adjust the throat latch, the nose band, curb chain, etc.

Easy right?  It takes lots of practice, learning How to put a bridle on a horse. If you practice, it will become easy!  If you have any questions or struggles, let me know.  I’ll be happy to go into more details and help you thru your struggles!