Choke is a common affliction related to the horse's eating habits. The first time you see a choking horse, you probably will get quite a scare. The horse may be frightened too. Choke occurs when a bail of food sticks in the esophagus, the tube leading to the stomach. Try as it might, the horse cannot get the feed all the way down. Saliva continues to be produced, and the horse drools excessively. You may see green feed coming out of the nostrils.

The horse may panic, throwing itself about and trying to rid itself of the annoyance. Or it may eventually stretch out its neck, drooling all the while. remember, though, the horse can still breathe. The food is lodged in the esophagus, not in the windpipe. When your horse chokes, your first reaction should be a calm one. Your horse can still breathe since there is no blockage of the airway. Keep your horse calm and prevent him from injuring himself by slowly walking or by standing with him and talking calmly. Sometimes you can see a lump on the side of the horse's neck where the ball of food is stuck in the esophagus. You may try to massage the throat area to help move the bolus of food down.

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Choke usually occurs because the horse doesn't chew and lubricate his food properly before swallowing, so the food cannot pass normally. A greedy eater is the usual victim of choke. Also, horses that are fed in groups may eat faster than usual due to competition for feed, and so suffer from choke. Horses trying to eat in a swaying trailer can choke when they accidentally swallow a bolus of food before they are ready. Finally, the horse that is overdue to have its teeth floated is a prime candidate for a choke episode; the feed just can't be chewed normally. Most cases of choke can be prevented. If you feed horses in a group, provide several feeding areas to reduce competition for feed. Avoid feeding grain in a trailer, since grain is more likely to cause choke than is hay (do not provide any feed in the trailer to a horse that gobbles its feed or has a history of choking).

Rider on a horse

The greedy eater is the horse that is most difficult to protect from choke. Several methods have been tried, and one may work for a particular horse but be useless for another. Feed hay before grain, so the horse is slightly full and less likely to bolt the concentrated feed. Place large rocks in the grain bucket, forcing the horse to pick its way around the rocks to eat the grain. Finally, spread out the feed over a large area to prevent the horse from gulping it down. Yearly dental exams ensure that the horse's teeth are in good shape and can perform their needed function. Horses with teeth in very poor condition can be given specially prepared feed.

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