First Aid for Horses: Respiration Rate & Breathing

How many breaths your horse takes in a minute can be an important indicator of many conditions, including pain, heart or lung issues.

So what exactly is normal?

Healthy respiration rate for most horses is generally between 8 and 15 breaths per
minute, although it is higher in foals and can be significantly higher just after exercise.

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A very relaxed horse can have a rate as low as 4 breaths per minute - that is usually a VERY relaxed horse.

The breathing itself should be calm and unexaggerrated, with relatively even spaces between each inhalation.

What is abnormal breathing?

  • Breathing rate over 15 breaths per minute at rest
  • Deep movement in the chest at rest- where the chest and/or abdomen have large, exaggerated movement - may indicate serious issues
  • Noisy inhalation may indicate a problem, particularly with the upper respiratory tract
  • Wheezing or coughing during exercise may also indicate some issues.

How to take a respiratory rate

  1. Allow the horse to settle and relax.
  2. Count the number of breaths for 30 seconds.
  3. Multiply that number by 2 - wallah!

There are some really great apps available for free that can help you easily monitor, count and record the respiratory rate - just search your relevant app store.

If you notice abnormalities, contact you veterinarian for advise.