That moment your heart stops and your body sends you into a small panic attack: the moment you horse chokes on something. He (or she off course) is calmly eating and the next second he stretches out his neck making throw up movements with his neck (horses cannot throw up, but it looks as if they are trying to) and starts coughing. This happened to my mare last fall. It happened more and more often. She is in the field 24/7 since last summer after het last pregnancy check. So, only grass, no pellets. My horse loves it, couldn’t make her happier since the return of her tendon injury. Her chronic mudfever is a direct result of that injury which was under control and I decided to try without meds for a while. Worked for several months, but then another break-out occurred.
So, went back to giving her the meds again every day with the plan to use some cream to get it back under control when she would go to the maternity stable. Only problem: she doesn’t eat the meds plain. Ingenious plan: put them in a carrot! That worked for a while, until at one point she started to choke on them. Slight panic attack accompanied by the question: what the hell are you doing?! She was stretching out her neck, making the throw-up movements, few coughs and then she wanted more carrots. Weird was my brain saying, but she ate the rest, walked off and started grazing again.
That would happen every now and then, every few days. Then the days started to shorten and she was growing her winter coat. To help her with that I gave her a handful of muesli and vitamin pellets. She wasn’t wearing a blanket for the first time in 10 years, so it takes energy to build up that coat. She started to choke on it immediately. It hurts to see your horse like that. Having trouble swallowing, coughing, trying to eat a bit again, repeat the process. Every time she passed the chunk of food she would greedily continue to eat. She was eating so quickly that she started choking on it every day.
At first, I tried to get her to take one bite at a time. That worked a bit, but she got angry and impatient as well. Then one day when feeding one of my other horses I notices the vitamin pellets can absorb quite a bit of water. So, if your horse only has had grass to eat for months and greedily eats the pellets, they expand when they come in contact with saliva creating a chunk not easy to swallow. Horses who have access to feed all day do not tend to have this problem. Time for a new tactic: mash with the vitamin pellets and meds, and a lot of water. First time I tried a handful. Didn’t know if this would work. I was already at the vet, maybe her larynx valve wasn’t working properly, or a tooth, or something with her oesophagus. The risks and consequences of choking can be severe. Thankfully this solution seemed to work. Ever since I have been mixing it all with water, she hasn’t choked once. Just to be safe I also quit the carrots and other foods that can be chunky in itself, because she doesn’t chew her food properly. Want to know more about oesophageal blockage? This article is very clear.
I hope my experience can help you when facing a problem like this. Be aware of a possible oesophageal blockage. If your horse is choking, find the cause and prevent worse. Often, when there is no medical reason, it is eating too greedily, food size or composition.