Choke is obstruction of the oesophagus or food-pipe and often appears like colic and is always after eating something. Generally it is because the horse has eaten food without chewing it adequately; this may be due to greed (if a bucket feed is eaten too quickly) or if the teeth have sharp edges that prevent normal mastication of grass or feed.

The signs seen are

  • Sweating
  • Retching and stiffness in neck
  • Not eating
  • A lump can sometimes be seen on the left,lower side of the neck
  • Saliva comes down nose- can be green

Most horses clear themselves naturally unless they have eaten something such as sugar beet (unsoaked) or large lumps of carrot that haven’t been chewed properly (by the horse!!)

Therefore it is important to find out what they’ve eaten

  • Carrots/sugar beet can be hard to clear
  • “Normal food” such as mix or hay is generally easier


  • Remove food
  • Leave water

Stomach tubing (nasogastric intubation) is done to flush the food trapped in the oesophagus. Often sedation is needed in order to flush the impacted food material- this often takes ½ hour or even longer on rare occasions!

We commonly provide antibiotics to protect against pneumonia if the choke has been a severe one or if there have been copious amounts of saliva coming from the nostrils.

Prevention is relatively straightforward; i.e. wet the feed routinely to ensure that there is already a high water content.