What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Rapid Pulse Persists Longer Than Normal after Exercise


The body regulates heart (pulse) rate dependent upon a variety of signals. The goal is for the tissues to be adequately oxygenated and for waste products of cell metabolism to be adequately removed.

If fitness is poor, the pathways that lead to this exchange are not well developed, and so gas exchange is poor. Signals are sent out from the tissues in the blood to ask for more bloodflow. The heart's contribution to this is to beat faster and with more force. The pulse rate corresponds to the heart rate.

A rapid pulse is normal with exercise. It should also drop at a given rate once exercise is finished. A pulse that remains higher than expected, even after rest, suggests lack of fitness, or could indicate a variety of other physical and metabolic problems. Pain and anxiety are two stimuli which keep the heart rate elevated.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If the horse is reluctant to move, along with this sign.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If this is the only sign and the horse seems normal otherwise.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

Assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to whether the horse is reluctant to move, or seems depressed. Contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet uses careful physical examination, assessment of your horse before and after exercise, and other diagnostics to rule out common causes for this observation.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What signs do you see specifically?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Does the horse's attitude and appetite seem normal?
  • What is the horse's exercise and performance history leading up to this?
  • Do you notice respiratory noise when the horse is ridden?
  • Do you notice lameness or suspect any other physical problems?
  • When did the horse last perform to your expectations?
  • Do you consider the horse to be fit?
  • Does the horse have a cough?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • What is the horse's heart rate and respiratory rate?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
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Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP