What Is Respiration On A Horse?

Last Updated on July 24, 2022

Every horse owner should be familiar with a horse’s vital signs. So, what is respiration on a horse? It is important to be able to recognize regular respiration in a horse and the signs of abnormal respiration.

A horse’s vital signs include temperature, respiration and pulse. A veterinarian will take these three measurements to learn if your horse is healthy or in need of help. It is also important as an owner to know how to take these measurements in case of an emergency.

What Is Respiration On A Horse?

Respiration is the number of breaths a horse takes per minute. It refers to the inhalation of oxygen into the lungs and the exhalation of carbon dioxide along with water vapor from the lungs. It can be used as an indicator of the well-being of your horse.

Veterinarians check a horse’s well-being by checking respiration. If a horse’s respiration does not fall in the average range, this could be an indicator that something is wrong.

Respiration On A Horse

How To Check A Horse’s Respiration

To check a horse’s respiration you will need a stethoscope and a watch or phone with a timer. When checking respiration, make sure your horse isn’t moving around or nervous. Your horse should be standing still somewhere they can feel relaxed.

Place the stethoscope midway between the throatlatch area and the chest, towards the bottom of the neck, and slightly to the right side. This will allow you to listen to your horse’s breathing through the trachea. However, you can put your stethoscope almost anywhere on the bottom of the neck to check a horse’s breathing.

Listening with the stethoscope, count how many times your horse breaths in 15 seconds and then multiple that number by four. Take the respiration three times in order to find your horse’s average breathing. If you don’t have a stethoscope, you can watch how many times your horse’s rib cage rises and falls within 15 seconds.

Alternatively, you can also your hand in front of the horse’s nostrils to count the number of breaths. However, this alternative is not the most accurate as your horse may sniff your hand, making it hard to count the real breaths.

Normal Respiration For A Horse

Normal respiration for a horse is between 8 to 16 breaths per minute when a horse is standing. Respiration can rise quickly as a horse moves, and go all the way up to 120 breaths per minute during intense exercise. However, as soon as a horse stops exertion, its breathing rate should begin to decline towards normal.

Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook

What Is Respiration On A Horse?

A newborn foal’s respiration may be as high as 60 to 80 breaths per minute. However, this number should stabilize to 20 to 40 breaths per minute within a couple of hours after birth.

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Abnormal Respiration For A Horse

If a horse’s resting still and its respiration rate is under eight or over 25 breaths per minute, this is considered abnormal. Be sure to check your horse’s respiration rate three times to find the average. If it is under eight or over 25, it is not normal.

What Abnormal Respiration Could Mean – What Is Respiration On A Horse?

Abnormal respiration can be caused by a number of things including exercise, excitement, pain, shock, stress, blood loss or anemia and even certain metabolic abnormalities. Be sure to give horses time to fully cool off after exercising to ensure that their elevated respiration has had time to go back to normal. It is important that your horse is standing still and not nervous, as this can mess up their respiration level.

What To Do If Your Horse’s Respiration Is Abnormal

If your horse’s respiration is abnormal, be sure to also check its temperature and pulse to see if those are normal or not. Also, look for other signs including if your horse is restless or agitated, tired or lethargic, refusing food or is showing signs of abdominal pain. In addition, look for other signs including noise when breathing, coughing, nasal discharge or has changes of color in the gums.

If your horse is experiencing any of those signs, you should contact your veterinarian. In the meantime, reduce anything that could cause stress and continue to monitor your horse until the veterinarian can come.

What to Do If Your Horse's Respiration Is Abnormal

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Checking The Other Vitals Of A Horse

It also a good idea to be able to check the other vitals of your horse. This includes checking your horse’s pulse and temperature, as these are also indicators of your horse’s well-being.


Use a thermometer to check your horse’s temperature. Spread a light layer of petroleum jelly to your thermometer and carefully and slowly insert it into your horse’s rectum. A normal temperature will be between 99 to 101 degrees Farenheit, anything lower or higher is considered abnormal.

Pulse – What Is Respiration On A Horse?

To check a horse’s pulse, use your fingers or a stethoscope and a timer. Place your fingers on the jawbone, toward the neck and under the cheek where you will find a large vein. If using a stethoscope, place it on the left side, just behind the elbow, around the area where the girth goes.

Count the number of beats you hear or feel and multiply that by four. A horse’s normal heart rate while resting should be 28 to 48 beats per minute, with large breeds being on the lower side and small breeds on the higher side. If a horse has not been exercising and the numbers are lower or higher than that average, that is abnormal.

Checking Your Horse Respiration

It is important to know how to check your horse’s respiration and know what is normal. High respiration in horse can be a sign that something is wrong.

Do you have any questions on what is respiration on a horse? If so, please ask any questions regarding a horse’s vitals in the comments.


How Do You Check a Horse’s Respiration?

The best way to check a horse's respiration is to place a stethoscope midway between the throatlatch area and the chest, towards the bottom of the neck and slightly to the right side. Count how many breaths your horse takes in 15 seconds and multiply it by four.

Does a Horse Use Respiration?

A horse's respiration is how they breathe. If a horse's restoration is high it could be from exercise, stress or illness.

What is the Normal Respiration Number?

The normal respiration for a resting horse is between 8 to 16 breaths per minute. This number will go up drastically when a horse begins to move and can be as high as 120 breaths per minute during intense exercise.

What Causes Breathing Problems in Horses?

There are many things that can cause breathing problems in horses. This includes viral respiratory infection, allergy, and environmental factors.