Keeping your finger on the pulse

Published: Monday, 11 July 2011 | Written by: Sylvia

With digital pulses no news is good news – a healthy hoof will have no pulse or a barely discernible tic, a stronger pulse generally indicates inflammation. Every horse is an individual, so get to know your horses typical pulse. Some find it easier to locate the point on the fetlock as demonstrated here, others on the pastern.

Whenever you can try locating the pulses of different horses, so you develop an idea of what feels weak and what feels strong.

Typically professionals use a scale of 0 – 5, this is how I describe the scale:

0 – no pulse discernible
1 – like the beat of a butterflies wing
2 – a butterfly on steroids
3 – between two and four!
4 – you can see your fingers move on top of the pulsing artery, I’d class this as bounding, like a small kangaroo.
5 – like an angry kangaroo, definitely a “bounding” pulse, you can sometimes see the pulse with the naked eye before you even touch the skin

Inflammation can be a sign of an abscess, quite likely if its only raised on one foot, however if a pair or all four feet are affected then laminitis is a strong possibility. Bear in mind however hot weather and exercise can also result in raised pulses.

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About the author

Somewhat eccentric southern African, who when not discussing horses, photographing horses, debating issues relating to horses, can be found out in the pasture with the horses (her's or someone else's). In those brief moments when horses are not the topic of conversation you’ll find dogs being walked, escaped sheep being sought, bales rolled by hand across awkward fields or the weird and wonderful foundlings of the wild world that have arrived in her kitchen for care being rehabilitated for release.

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