Horse and handlers examining horse's hoof.

General Equine Health and Red Flags

It is essential for healthy horses to receive core vaccines and, potentially, risk-based vaccines regularly. Your veterinarian will guide you on what vaccines are appropriate and how often they should be given. Coggins tests should be performed on your horse at least once a year to ensure that he is free of the EIA virus. When your horse receives vaccines, your veterinarian may also perform a wellness exam to ensure his or her health. All of these records should be kept in case of a disease outbreak or other emergency.

Your horse should be on a parasite control program. Your veterinarian can advise you on fecal egg count testing and treatment, if necessary.

It is important to know how a healthy horse looks and acts so you can recognize a sick horse quickly. Normal rectal temperature is 99-101.5ºF and anything above that would be considered a fever. Horses should take 10-24 breaths per minute, and the nostrils should not contain excessive mucus. Clear liquid coming out of the nostrils is normal, but any fluids thicker or with a color can suggest respiratory disease. A normal equine heart rate is 28-44 beats per minute. Check the gums, which should be pink and moist, and the capillary refill time (time for color to return after firmly pressing finger against gums), which should be <2 seconds. Coughing and neurologic signs are two other health issues to look out for. Check for all of these signs regularly, so you know what your horse’s normal values are.


Horse Health Red Flags Key Points

  • Yearly, vaccinate your horse, get him/her a Coggins test, and have a wellness exam by a veterinarian.
  • Have your veterinarian guide you on a parasite control program.
  • Learn healthy vital sign values and how your horse normally runs. Temperature: 99-101.5ºF; respiratory rate: 10-24 breaths per minute; heart rate: 28-44 beats per minute; mucous membranes: pink and moist; capillary refill time (CRT): <2 seconds

Medical and Travel Records

As a horse owner, it is important to keep medical records for your horse. Keep records of vaccinations, parasite control, disease outbreaks, and any other veterinary visits or health issues. Make sure you have a Coggins test (EIA virus test) yearly, especially if you will be traveling (across state lines). Having your horse microchipped is also a good idea, but remember that the microchip must be registered somewhere in order for trace-back to be possible. This could be a breed registry, microchip registry, discipline group, or some other type of registry.

Inform your barn manager whenever you plan to leave the property. He or she can help you assess biosecurity risks during your travels and will want to keep records for the barn.

Medical Records Key Points

  • Keep medical records of vaccinations, parasite control, disease outbreaks, and health issues.
  • Have your horse microchipped and registered. Inform your barn manager of any plans to take your horse off property.

Single Sick Horse

Notify barn staff and your veterinarian right away if your horse shows signs of disease. To prevent the potential spread of an infectious disease, quarantine your horse until clinical signs resolve and a veterinarian clears him/her.

Clean and disinfect your horse’s tack and equipment and surfaces you touch regularly. Make sure barn staff will clean and disinfect your horse’s stall, water and feed buckets, and anything else in the stall or paddock that your horse touches.

Single Sick Horse Key Points

  • Notify your barn manager if your horse seems sick.
  • If your horse tests positive for an infectious disease, clean and disinfect anything your horse has touched, whether equipment or areas in the barn/paddock.

Outbreak Control

Everyone at the barn, including horse owners, is responsible for controlling an outbreak.

Educate yourself about the disease or pathogen that is being transmitted. What is the incubation period? Is it a parasite, bacteria, or virus? What are clinical signs? All of these questions (and many others) will help you become a more responsible horse owner. It will also help you report any suspicious signs or symptoms in the horses right away.