There are many signs to look for to see if a racehorse is healthy, some that you would think to check, like temperature, sweating and pulse, and others more subtle like gum colour and a gurgling stomach! Have a look below for some key tips to what qualities make a healthy racehorse, and which signs show the opposite.
A healthy horse should have nice salmon-pink moist gums. Not dry, red or yellow. Keep an eye on your horse’s gum colour, and also check their ability to refill the blood. Press down with your finger gently on the gum and when the area goes white make sure it goes back to pink in just a couple of seconds of you removing your finger. A quick capillary refill time is a good sign, a slow one less so.
Check that your horse is in the acceptable weight bracket for its height. A good diet is key and a healthy appetite is also a quality you find in a healthy racehorse so keep an eye on how hungry your horse is and avoid over or under-feeding.
While the saying says the proof is in the pudding, with horses you can tell a lot from the feet! A dry or brittle hoof can tell you something is wrong, and you should always check to see if your horse needs shoeing or anything needs removing. Healthy feet are definitely an important quality in a healthy horse, so get looking.
Again a horse’s legs are hugely important when checking their health. Feeling up and down for lumps, cuts and injuries is crucial, and any good owner should know what is normal for their horse to spot the difference, so give it a go every day.
Like the Art Garfunkel song, Bright Eyes are another important quality in a healthy horse. Any cloudiness or dullness can be a sign that something is wrong, so have a look for yourself. Nice bright eyes are a good sign of health and easy to check as well.
When listening to a horse’s stomach, silence is NOT golden. A normal burbling gurgling sound is normally consistent with a healthy racehorse, a silent stomach could mean the opposite, so get a professional to check it out.
Watch the rise and fall of your horse’s chest to see his breath. An adult horse typically has around 10-24 breaths a minute. You can also check the breath using a mirror held up to the mouth as a good trick and count this way. Another idea is to check heart rate (28-44 beats per minute) and temperature (37.2-38.3 degrees Celsius) to ensure your horse is within normal range.
Being well-hydrated is an important quality for a racehorse. You can test this by pinching the skin and seeing if it bounces back to normal in a second. Your horse should also have a glossy coat and an all-around sheen of good health!
These and other qualities all make up a healthy horse, so even if you aren’t a horse owner or trainer next time you are down at Doomben races, or wherever your nearest track is, have a look around and see if you can tell the difference!