How to Take a Horses Temperature

How to Take a Horse’s Temperature: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

by | Jun 7, 2023 | Equine First-Aid, Equine Health

Keeping a close eye on the health of your equine companion is an essential aspect of horse ownership. One key health indicator is your horse’s body temperature, which can signal potential underlying health issues and provide useful information on its overall well-being. Recognizing the importance of temperature monitoring, this article provides comprehensive information on how to accurately measure a horse’s temperature, the necessary tools for this task, and how to interpret the results.

Throughout this guide, we’ll discuss the crucial role temperature plays in the overall health of a horse, highlighting its significance in identifying early signs of health disturbances. We’ll walk you through the essentials you’ll need for the task, focusing on how to select the right thermometer and the appropriate use of lubricant to ensure a smooth process. Following that, we’ll detail a step-by-step guide on how to take your horse’s temperature, covering safety precautions and practical tips to ensure accuracy.

The final section will help you understand what the resulting temperature readings mean, identifying when a reading might be an indication of illness and the appropriate time to contact a vet. By the end of this guide, you’ll be well-equipped with the knowledge and practical skills to regularly monitor your horse’s body temperature, enabling you to take proactive steps towards ensuring their optimal health.

Understanding the Importance of Monitoring a Horse's Temperature

Before we delve into the “how-to,” it’s essential to understand the “why.” Temperature is a crucial vital sign that can provide early warnings of potential health issues in your horse. The average body temperature for a healthy adult horse typically ranges from 99°F to 101.5°F (or 37.22°C to 38.61°C). Deviations from this range can indicate various problems such as infections, inflammations, and other diseases. Consequently, regular temperature checks can help detect health issues at an early stage, allowing for timely treatment.

Moreover, routinely monitoring your horse’s temperature can help establish a baseline that’s normal for your horse. This personal baseline is useful because just like humans, each horse is unique and may naturally run a little cooler or warmer than others.

Essentials You'll Need: Horse Thermometer and Lubricant

Now that we understand the importance of temperature monitoring, let’s move on to the tools needed for this task. For a horse, we recommend using a digital rectal thermometer, which offers an accurate reading and is generally easier and safer to use than glass thermometers.

A good option is the SHARPTEMP-V Veterinary Thermometer. This thermometer is specifically designed for animals and can deliver fast, accurate readings in just 8 to 10 seconds. Its 5-inch stainless-steel probe with a rounded tip is safe for all animals and is particularly suitable for large livestock like horses. Its durability makes it perfect for heavy-duty use on the farm, in the stable, or at a veterinary clinic.
As for lubricant, this is crucial to make the temperature-taking process more comfortable for your horse. An excellent option is the Surgilube Lubricating Jelly, which is sterile, water-soluble, and non-irritating to animals. If you prefer something specifically made for equine use, the All Purpose Lubricant from Durvet Gallon is another great option that is commonly used in veterinary practices.

Remember, having the right tools is the first step towards taking accurate and stress-free temperature readings for your horse. In the next section, we’ll detail a step-by-step guide on how to perform this task effectively and safely.

Detailed Step-by-Step Guide: Taking a Horse's Temperature

With an understanding of why temperature monitoring is important and the right tools in hand, you’re ready to take your horse’s temperature. This procedure, while straightforward, does require careful handling to ensure accuracy and safety for both you and your horse. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to proceed:

1. Preparation: Start by ensuring your horse is calm and securely tied up. It’s essential to approach the horse in a calm and gentle manner to avoid causing any stress or anxiety. Consider enlisting a helper to hold your horse if it’s your first few times or if the horse is known to be skittish.

2. Clean the Thermometer: Using a disinfectant wipe, such as PDI Sani-Cloth Wipes, clean the thermometer before use. This will ensure that it’s sterile and safe for use.

3. Apply Lubricant: Apply the lubricant we discussed earlier liberally to the thermometer. This helps to ease insertion and prevents any discomfort to the horse.

4. Take the Temperature: With your horse calm and still, lift the tail gently and insert the thermometer into the rectum, approximately 2 inches deep. Hold the thermometer in place, avoiding any sudden movements that could startle your horse. Make sure to gently press the thermometer against the rectal wall to ensure a good reading.

5. Read the Temperature: After the thermometer beeps, indicating that the reading is complete, carefully remove it and note the temperature. Remember, a normal range for horses is between 99°F and 101.5°F (or 37.22°C to 38.61°C).

6. Clean and Store the Thermometer: Once you’re done, clean the thermometer with a disinfectant wipe again and store it safely for the next use.

By following these steps, you should be able to take your horse’s temperature accurately and with minimal discomfort. However, it’s important to remember that each horse is an individual, and some may require a gentler approach or more time to get used to the procedure.

The next part of this guide will discuss how to understand these readings and recognize when it might be time to consult a professional. It’s important to know when to step in with further medical assistance if your horse’s temperature is outside the normal range.

Indications of Illness: When to Contact a Vet

Now that you’ve taken your horse’s temperature, it’s crucial to understand what the readings mean. As mentioned, the average normal temperature for a horse is between 99°F to 101.5°F (or 37.22°C to 38.61°C). If the temperature falls below or rises above this range, it may signal health issues that need immediate attention.

Low temperatures (hypothermia) can result from extreme cold exposure, shock, or severe illness. High temperatures (fever), on the other hand, are usually associated with infections, inflammation, or serious conditions like colic, pneumonia, or heatstroke. It’s important to contact your vet immediately if your horse has a temperature below 99°F or above 101.5°F (or 37.22°C to 38.61°C). Even small changes can be significant, so it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

If you’re interested in learning more about horse health and when to contact a vet, there are some excellent resources available. The book “Complete Horse Care Manual” by Colin Vogel provides a comprehensive guide to horse health, including symptoms of various conditions that can affect a horse’s temperature.

For a deeper dive into horse anatomy and physiology, the “Horse Anatomy: A Coloring Atlas” by Robert Kainer and Thomas McCracken is a great tool. It will help you better understand the physical makeup of horses and how it correlates with their health in a fun and engaging way – coloring!

Finally, “Equine Emergencies: Treatment and Procedures” by James Orsini and Thomas Divers is an invaluable resource for anyone caring for horses. This book offers a thorough exploration of various emergency situations, including those that may involve temperature fluctuations, with advice on when and how to seek veterinary help.


Taking your horse’s temperature is a fundamental part of maintaining their health and wellbeing. It allows you to monitor their physical condition and identify any potential health issues at the earliest stages. With the right tools at hand, such as a reliable digital thermometer and suitable lubricant, this task becomes straightforward and stress-free.

Throughout this guide, we have explored why temperature monitoring is vital for your horse, what tools you need to perform this task, the step-by-step process of taking your horse’s temperature, and how to understand the readings. We also highlighted some invaluable resources that can further your knowledge and confidence in horse care.

Remember, while monitoring your horse’s temperature is a crucial component of their healthcare, it should not replace regular veterinary checks. Always reach out to your vet if you have concerns about your horse’s health or if they display symptoms of illness, including temperature changes.

Equine health is a responsibility that requires patience, diligence, and a deep understanding of your horse. The knowledge you’ve gained from this guide empowers you to fulfill this role more effectively, enabling you to provide the best care for your equine companion. After all, our goal is to ensure that our horses lead comfortable, healthy, and happy lives under our stewardship.

What methods or approaches have you found to be effective when taking your horse’s temperature? Do you have any additional tips or tricks that could help other horse owners? Please share your insights in the comments section below!

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Adrienne Collins</a>

Adrienne Collins

Adrienne is a spirited cowgirl and rancher living amidst the vast expanse of the Texas Range. Surrounded by rolling hills and sweeping prairies, she has made it her home and playground. Adrienne's days are filled with tending to her cattle, riding alongside her trusty steed, and preserving the cowboy way of life. She possesses a deep understanding of the land and the animals that roam upon it, having grown up on the ranch and learning the ropes from her family. Her skills in horsemanship and cattle handling are second nature to her, as she effortlessly navigates through the challenges and joys of ranch life. In her free time, Adrienne relishes the opportunity to participate in local rodeos and equestrian events, showcasing her expertise in roping and barrel racing. Through her writing and storytelling, she aims to keep the rich heritage of Texas ranching alive, sharing tales of hard work, resilience, and the unbreakable bond between a cowgirl and her horse on the open Range.

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