How to Recognize a Healthy Horse

Anyone who has ever ridden a horse knows that riding can make you feel more alive than anything else. It’s a completely different feeling to gallop across an open field, in tune with your mount. The connection is special and often lasts for decades. This close relationship is a big part of what makes horses so good. It’s the reason many people spend a lot of money and time on them.

Whether you’re considering buying or just enjoying them, it’s worth knowing how to recognize a healthy, sound horse. There are a few easy things to look for.

1. A gleaming coat

Healthy horses have shiny, glowing coats. This is a sign of their general wellness that comes from meeting their nutritional requirements and frequent grooming. A dull coat can be a sign of parasites, poor nutrition or other health issues.

2. A bright, alert attitude

Look for a horse that is curious about you, other horses and their environment. A horse that is inquisitive is a happy, healthy horse. Look for a horse that is willing to be taught and wants to please you. A horse that is not interested in learning may be a sign of problems that need to be addressed.

3. A calm, relaxed attitude

Ask the owner how the horse behaves on the ground and while mounted. A horse that is relaxed while being handled is a great sign. Horses that are agitated and fidgety can be signs of a problem. A horse that is calm, happy and focused when being ridden will be a wonderful riding partner for you.

4. A clear, well-adjusted eye and nose

Horses have large eyes that are very similar to our own. They see almost panoramically with the exception of a small area directly in front and behind them that is their blind spot. Their sense of smell is also very similar to ours; they can sniff out a wide variety of things including chemicals, other horses and even food.

5. A sound, strong body

The heart of a horse is bigger than most other animals’ and pumps extra-strongly. To handle this surge of blood, they have a huge spleen that is about 4 feet long, 8 inches wide and four inches thick. This spleen – which is about 80 percent red blood cells – squeezes to ferry oxygenated blood to the horse’s muscles during running and for an hour afterward.

6. A sound, healthy foot structure

Horses need to be careful on the ground and while they are being ridden because their feet are very susceptible to injury. It’s important to look at the condition of a horse’s feet and legs before you buy. Ask the seller to show you their hooves, especially the front ones, and check for a clean, well-worn sole, a full, solid hoof wall and good movement. If you can’t see a good heel or there are cracks in the hoof, it’s best to avoid that horse.