Four hundred and ninety horses were anaesthetised with halothane for clinical surgical or diagnostic procedures following induction with either detomidine/keta-mine, detomidine/thiopentone, xylazine/ketamine or guaiphenesin/thiopentone. Routine clinical monitoring was performed during anaesthesia. All horses developed hypotension (mean arterial pressures below 80 mm Hg) and respiratory depression (significant fall in respiratory rate and arterial carbon dioxide tension above 7 kPa (53 mm Hg)) consistent with the recognised effects of halothane. All anaesthetic procedures incorporating xylazine or detomidine resulted in lower pulse rates (28–35 per min) than after guaiphenesin/thiopentone (36–44 per min) and there was greater respiratory depression after techniques employing thiopentone rather than keta-mine. Development of hypotension was delayed after techniques using the α2 adrenoceptor agonist agents (xylazine and detomidine), particularly detomidine. Prernedication with acepromazine did not affect any of the physiological variables measured after techniques employing detomidine. Recovery to standing was fastest after xylazine/ketamine (31±1 min) and slowest after detomidine/thiopentone (53±2 min). Recovery quality was best after detomidine/thiopentone and all techniques employing an α2 adrenoceptor agonist agent resulted in smoother recovery than after guaiphenesin/thiopentone. This study demonstrates that most of the physiological effects of individual induction agents are overridden by the cardiovascular and respiratory depressant effects of halothane. The study also shows that detomidine is an acceptable sedative for use before general anaesthesia with halothane in horses.