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First signs to check upon approaching horse

Good Signs
Bad Signs

Horse alert and interested in what is going on around it


Horse anxious, moving around uncontrollably. Aggressive with ears back and trying to bite. Standing with drooping head and a tucked up appearance on their own or away from other horses

Eye - Bright and wide open. The lining of the eye and nostril should be a salmon pink.

Eye dull or half-shut. Lining of eye and nostril very pale, yellow or bluish in colour. Discharge from eyes or nostrils.

Ears should feel warm - good indication horse is warm all over

Ears cold and clammy.

Lower leg, below the knee and hock should feel cool and fine with tendons and ligaments standing out in hard cords

Legs hot and puffy or swollen. If one leg is affected check for lameness. If all four legs are filled it could be due to sudden change of diet.

The horse should move sound, with a perfectly level and even stride

Any shortness or unevenness of stride. It is normal for a horse to rest one hind leg, but not to point or rest a foreleg while standing square on the other three legs.

Breathing should be quiet, regular and rather slow, when the horse is at rest.Adult horse - 8 to 12 breaths per minute at rest.


Breathing that is quick, noisy or in any way labored.

Listen to horses gut

If the gut is noisy the horse may have colic

Other Signs to check regarding health
Good Signs
Bad Signs
Round in condition, with ribs well covered. Excessively fat (gross condition), or thin and ribby
Skin loose moving under one's hand Skin tight or hidebound - often a sign of worms or dehydration
Feet should also be cool. Frog should be firm and elastic, sole clean and hard Any heat in feet. Softness or a smelly discharge from the sole or frog.
Lying down for short periods and rolling occasionally especially after work Lying down for several hours on end. Rolling continually is often a sign of colic
Temperature 37.5 to 38.5 Celsius  
A hearty appetite - horses graze approximately 18 hours per day Not grazing for long periods. Refusing food.
Droppings - about eight piles a day should be produced daily. Colour will vary according to diet. They should just break on hitting the ground. Hard, very dark droppings (constipated). Very loose with a pungent smell (diarrhea).
Urine should be passed two or three times daily. It should be fairly thick, and light in colour. Dark coloured urine. If horse has difficulty in passing urine.
Equus Education (NZ) LTD www.equuseducation.com 025 883 482 Leigh Wills , Jo Osborne


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