The easiest place to find the pulse on your horse is just inside the front knee. Just sightly above the joint and on the inside of the leg. You will find a vein much like you can find on a person's wrist. Count the heart beats for 15 seconds. X by 4 and you have their beats per minute.
For respiration, watch the horses flank, Just behind the rib cage. Each breath that soft tissue will heave out and back in. Again count how many breaths the horse takes in 15 seconds and x 4 to get the number per minute.
If you have done this several time around the pasture when the horse has not been worked, You will know what is NORMAL for you horse. I've seen many arab endurance horses in prime shape that have 4 maybe 5 heart beats in 15 seconds. My Foxtrotters are more in the 9 beats per 15 seconds when they are at a complete rest. So it's important for you to establish a base line of whats normal when your horse has not be worked, Then you can compare to how fast he recovers after working. Conditioning is all about the recovery.
Other baselines you can learn about for your horse are:
Capilllary refill, Press your thumb on the gum of the horses mouth and count how many seconds it takes for the color to return to the gums.
Skin Pinch, Pull a small tent of loose skin on your horses shoulder near the base of the neck. Count how many seconds it takes for that pinch of skin to return to normal.
If the horse is getting dehydrated, both of these counts will be longer than your normal baseline. For example, when you press on the gums, they wil turn white/grey , When you relase, normally the blood will return them to a normal pink color in 1-2 seconds. If the horse is dehydrated, it will take 2-3-4 seconds. When you pull the skin tent, The eleasticity of the skin will pull the tent back flat in 1-2 seconds. If the horse is dehydrated, it may take 3-4 seconds to return to normal.
You can also press your thumb against the horses juglar vein. You can count how many seconds it takes for the vein to fill and bulge above where you pressed. If it is slower filling than your baseline, the horse is dehydrated.
Also learn what is normal for your horses gut sounds. Put an ear against his side and listen to his gut sounds. A stressed horse will have reduced gut sounds. Meaning stuff isn't moving through the gut, which leads to colic.
If you learn these basics, you can pay attention to your horse when ever you stop for a break. By looking you can tell when you are pushing him too hard, when they are not drinking enough water, if you need to stop and let them graze a minute to help get thing moving in their gut etc.
Last edited by Painted Horse; 05-05-2010 at 10:27 AM.