circulatory system of the horse

The circulatory system of the horse!

  • Here are a few things, which are totally important, and maybe some other interesting things. As a horse owner, knowing a little bit about your horse’s heart can help you spot problems early. Pretty crucial, as the heart is the main player in the circulatory system of the horse. It’s also vital for your veterinarian to check your horse’s circulatory system during routine visits, just to be sure the ticker is ticking correctly.

stethoscope for pulse and gut sounds


The components of your horse’s circulatory system include the heart, spleen, blood and blood vessels, and the frog. Yes, the triangle thing on the sole of your horse’s hoof.

  • Starting at the heart, which weighs anywhere from 8 to 16 lbs, the circulatory system’s main function is to deliver oxygen to your horse’s muscles.

  • The spleen functions to remove dead red blood cells from circulation, as well as being a warehouse for fresh and new red blood cells. The spleen can also release extra blood cells into circulation when your horse is exerting himself. This allows more oxygen to be carried throughout his body.

  • Blood vessels carry all of the good stuff around your horse, like blood.

vet listening to a horse's heart

  • Blood itself has many components and functions, including delivering oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide throughout the body.

  • Some cells, the white blood cells, are part of the immune system and help to ward off infection. Don’t forget about clotting factors, which aid in wound healing.

  • The horse’s frog works to pump blood up the horse’s leg. When a horse steps, the frog pushes into the digital cushion. This forces blood out of the digital cushion and back up the horse’s leg. No match for gravity. This mechanism is precisely why it’s important for your horse to move around.

You can get a feel (literally) for your horse’s circulatory system by checking his pulse.

  • I know you all check TPR daily. So, you already know your horse’s baseline pulse, somewhere around 36 beats per minute. Here’s the wacky part – it can beat up to 250 beats per minute during galloping exercise.

  • A horse with a resting pulse that is above normal indicates pain, nervousness or excitement, dehydration (bad), fever, infection, heart or lung disease. It’s also a response to massive blood loss.

  • A lower than normal heart rate indicates heart disease, pressure on the brain, or general circulation problems. Call the Vet! For info on checking TPR, read this article and watch the VIDEO BELOW!

You can also check your horse’s digital pulse to get a quick feel into what’s going on inside the hoof.

Generally speaking, a healthy hoof has a barely discernible pulse, but an inflamed hoof will have a strong or bounding digital pulse. Call the vet! To learn how to check your horse’s digital pulse, this article has a video for you.


check your horse's digital pulse

A horse’s digital pulse gives you valuable insight into what’s going on in the hoof.


This video shows you how the digital artery “works” to check your horse’s hoof health.

This video shows you how to measure the digital pulse.

You can also get a glimpse into your horse’s circulatory health by checking his gums.

  • Capillary refill time is the time it takes for the pink color to return to the gums after you press on them. Two seconds is good. Blue, red, or super pales gums are all a super reason to call the vet. Also call the vet if you find white, gray, or yellow gums. Ok, any color but normal pink, call the vet.


bars and tongue of a horse's mouth

The easiest way for you to monitor your horse’s circulatory and heart is to check his gums and TPR daily! Super easy.

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If you want to easily shop for horse supplies, you can click these links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you. I couldn’t be more grateful for your support!

ADC Veterinary Thermometer, Dual Scale, Adtemp 422 – For easy temperature taking

3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope, Black Edition Chestpiece, Black Tube, 27 inch, 5803 – For finding heart rate and gut sounds