First Aid for Horses: Temperature

A normal rectal temperature for a horse is 37.2-38.3°C

A normal rectal temperature for a horse is 37.2-38.3°C


Learning how to take your horses temperature is an important skill for horse owners.

An unhealthy temperature can indicate the horse has an infection or disease, and is a good indicator for monitoring the progress of the problem.

Our first aid kit should contain:

  • 1 or more thermometers, either digital or mercury
  • 1 form of lubricant, such as Vaseline or KY Jelly
  • A form of cleanser to sterilise and clean pre and post use (rubbing alcohol or chlorhexidine)
  • Gloves

The procedure:

  1. Ensure your horse is safely restrained and calm.
  2. Cleans the thermometer and apply lubrication to the tip.
  3. Gently move to the back of the horse.
  4. Using one hand, lift the tail slightly to one side.
  5. Using the other hand, insert the thermometer into the rectum NO FURTHER THAN HALFWAY UP THE THERMOMETER ARM, using a gentle twisting motion.
  6. Angle the thermometer slightly so the inserted tip is angled upwards.
  7. Start the thermometer reading until beeps, or for 3 minutes if a mercury thermometer.
  8. Once finished, gently remove the thermometer from the rectum and read.


  • Always stand to the side of your horse to avoid being kicked.
  • It is best to take your horses temperature after they have evacuated their bowels - faeces in the rectum can give you a falsely high reading.
  • Have a piece of string tied to the thermometer and maintain hold of the thermometer when in use. Yes, horses can 'suck in' the thermometer and no, it has never happened to me. If it does happen, contact your veterinarian for advice.
  • If you receive an abnormal temperature reading, repeat again and again in an hour. If the temperature stays consistently high, especially over 38.7°C, consult your veterinarian for advice.