How to Avoid Choke in Horses

"Choke” is a blockage in your horse’s esophagus that makes it impossible for him to swallow.

Even hay, which is dry, can result in choking if your horse consumes it too quickly; consider slow-feed nets and/or soaking.
Nigel Baker/

Take Care, Avoid Choke

“Choke” is a blockage in your horse’s esophagus that makes it impossible for him to swallow. It doesn’t stop his breathing and may resolve on its own, but in severe cases it can cause scarring, which then increases the risk of future chokes. Gobbling feed and inadequate chewing contribute to choke; hay cubes, pellets, and unsoaked beet pulp are common culprits. If you see saliva and feed material coming from your horse’s nose and he’s coughing or gagging, call your veterinarian for advice. To guard against choke, slow your greedy eater, choose feedstuffs carefully, and/or consider soaking his feed in advance. 

More Prevention Tips

(from left): Jennifer Paulson; Chalabala/; Spiritartist/

feed on ground: A shallow feed pan also helps, with large rocks added to further slow feeding.

regular dental care: Keep sharp points and dental ridges adequately filed down to enable proper chewing.

bite-size treats: Cut up apples, carrots, and other treats into thumb-size chunks before offering.


If your horse is prone to choking, select commercial feeds carefully to avoid products with larger, harder pellets in favor of something easier to chew. In fact, feeds formulated for seniors (like the above) may be your best bet, for these reasons:

  • Easy to chew and swallow.  
  • Can be moistened for even easier mastication.
  • Can be offered as a complete feed, or as a supplement to forage. 

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