Every horse owner should know how to take a horse’s temperature, pulse and respiration, often called TPR. Another good skill is to be able to take your horse’s digital pulse, which often can help you detect the onset of laminitis, marked by a bounding digital pulse.
Step 1: Squat down on the side of your horse’s left front leg and place your index finger around the left side of the fetlock joint at its lower edge.
Step 2: Apply pressure with your finger, and strum (run your finger from side to side, as though strumming a guitar) around the fetlock joint, until you feel a cord-like bundle (consisting of vein, artery, and nerve) “snap” or roll underneath your touch.
Step 3: Apply pressure to this bundle for 5 to 10 seconds until you feel a pulse. (Note: If you can’t find a pulse, adjust the amount of pressure you’re placing on the bundle. If you press too hard, you’ll cut off blood flow, therefore the pulse. If you don’t press hard enough, you won’t create feel the pulse at all. Don’t get frustrated, this takes practice.)
Step 4: This is the tricky part. You need to determine whether your horse’s digital pulse is throbbing abnormally. It helps to know what a healthy pulse feels like, but you can’t always find a pulse on a healthy leg/hoof. It might be too faint. On the other hand, you’ll know he has a problem if you can easily find his digital pulse. (If you’re not sure, consult your veterinarian or knowledgeable friend.)
Repeat Steps 1 through 4 on your horse’s other three legs.
If you can’t find the digital pulse on your own, ask your veterinarian to coach you the next time she is at the farm for routine work.