May 27, 2015

How to Take Your Horse's Pulse

There are two easy methods to taking a horse's pulse: one that involves a stethoscope, and one that doesn't.  We'll start with the stethoscope method first, even though it is not the one I normally use:

Step 1: Make sure the stethoscope ear pieces are snugly fitted in your ears!
I'm either turning into my mother or my little brother, not sure which.

Step 2: Stand on the horse's left side, facing the hind end.

Step 3: Place the stethoscope a few inches behind the elbow on the horse's side.

This region, closer to the elbow.  Move  the stethoscope around til you find it.

Step 4: Listen for and identify the horse's heart sounds.  It should be a two beat "dub-dub" sound.  Being awesome cardiovascular athletes, horses' heart rates are naturally pretty slow, so be patient if you don't hear it immediately.

Step 5: When you're sure you have it, start a timer for 30 seconds, and double that for the Beats Per Minute (BPM).  Note: For humans you can set the timer for 10 seconds, because our heart rate is much faster than horses.  30 seconds will give a more accurate reading for a horse.  Record the BPM.

Second method: The maxillary artery

Step 1: Find the maxillary artery by cupping your hand around one side of your horse's jawbone, under the cheek.  Move your hand around until you find it.  It is about the diameter of a wooden pencil, and rolls around on the bone like a big piece of spaghetti.  You can't miss it!

This is where I found Connor's.  It's underneath my index finger on the jawbone.

Step 2: Keep your fingers lightly pressed against it until you get a good feel for the rhythm.

Step 3: Start your timer for 30 seconds, counting the number of beats.  Double that number to get the Beats Per Minute (BPM).


  1. I love your tutorials on taking temperature and pulse! Can you include what is considered normal range and what is cause for concern? For instance, I was always taught that a temp of over 101 is cause for concern.

    1. Sure! Normals were included in Monday's post. They're in the middle of the post.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. that stethoscope pic is hilarious!

  3. Very informative little series on TPR. I always had trouble finding the pulse - I better go practice! :)

    1. When people are having a hard time finding the pulse with a stethoscope it helps to get your horse to stand with his left leg slightly forward so that his tricep muscles are out of the way.