Learn signs that suggest poor condition or ill health, and address the problems appropriately. Understand the things that can stress a horse and increase susceptibility to problems. Learn how to manage situations to reduce risk factors.
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
Familiarity with the signs of good health is essential to enable any signs of illness to be detected early in the disease process. The following are visual signs of health (good and poor) in horses.
Normal: bright, alert with pricked ears and interest in surroundings.
Abnormal: aggressive, restless, depressed (+/- signs of pain such as unwillingness to move, head pressing, repeated yawning).
(ii) Stance & Stretching
Abnormalities may indicate regional pain (e.g. laminitis or abdominal pain)
Eagerness and ability to eat and drink
(iv) Defecation and urination
Normal/abnormal posture, frequency (defecation 8-12 times per day on corn, 16 times plus at pasture), consistency (should break on hitting the ground), colour (green-brown to golden brown).
(v) Presence of vices
Weaving, crib-biting, wind sucking indicate management problem and may have systemic consequences (e.g. weight loss etc.)
(vi) State of bedding
Disarray from pawing may be an indication of pain as may, straw on back if the horse has been rolling.
(i) Coat condition
Normal: shiny and even distribution
Abnormal: include bald patches/changes in pigmentation which may be an indication of parasites, excess skin scurf (dandruff), and excessive growth (hormonal).
(ii) Skin lesions
Hairless patches, raised wheals, hemorrhages, tumors, moist mottled hair etc.
(iii) Body condition
The animal becomes obese, normal, emaciated: abnormalities may be related to nutrition, management and/or disease.
Excessive associated with pain and/or stress.
... from the eyes or nose: amount and consistency, unilateral and bilateral.
Normal breathing rate is 8 to 16 breaths per minute
Normally respiratory effort should be barely noticeable, abnormal rhythm and involving abdominal effort indicates dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing).
Consider the frequency and nature (e.g. moist or dry +/- discharge)
(i) Pulse rate
Normal 30 - 40 beats per minute
(ii) Rectal temperature
Normal 37-38 degrees C (99-101.5 degrees F)
(ensure bulb is touching rectal wall and not inserted into a ball of faeces if possible)
(iii) Body and legs
Palpation for any abnormal swellings or areas of heat or pain (see lameness lectures)
Mouth: teeth: condition and age colour of membranes and capillary refill time (normal 1-2 seconds)
What Should You Study?