You know all about first aid and how to check for lameness. Heck, you could have written a short novel on managing your horse’s diet and metabolic issues. But what do you really know about your horse’s heart health? If you just shrugged your shoulders, don’t worry.
Here’s five important facts about the equine circulatory system to help fill in the gaps in your knowledge.
So much blood.
The heart of an adult horse at rest pumps out about 10.6 gallons (25-40 L) of blood per minute (compared to the relatively meek average resting human’s 1-1.3 gallons (4-5 L per minute). During a hard workout, your horse’s heart can pump 79 gallons (300 L) per minute!
What’s that sound?
Equine hearts have four chambers: the right and left atrium at the top, which both receive blood, and two ventricles at the bottom to pump blood. A healthy horse’s heart makes up to four sounds per cycle and each sound is best heard from different locations.
Keeping a beat.
The following heart rates are normal for a fit, adult horse:
• At rest, 25-60 beats per minute (bpm)
• In trot, 80-140 bpm
• In canter, 120-170 bpm
• In gallop, 160-240 bpm
• Maximum rate, 240 bpm
Curious to know what your horse’s heart rate is during your workouts and competition? Devices like the Hylofit monitor can help you track your horse’s heart rate during exercise and at rest.
Call the vet.
It’s easy to see if your horse is lame, but heart problems can be a bit less obvious. The most common signs of a heart condition are: loss of condition, increased fatigue during exertion, shortness of breath, increased rate or effort of breathing, weakness resulting in collapse or fainting, and signs of fluid accumulation in the abdomen or beneath the skin of the lower thorax.