Stop a choke from becoming pneumonia, USEF microchip reminder
Fall Vaccination Conflagration!
Pile of horse manure drying in sun on green grass.
Horses that live in a boarding facility, travel, or show require fall vaccines, specifically rhinopneumonitis and influenza ( rhino/flu). Some horses also receive their botulism or rabies vaccines in the fall. Please call the office at  609-291-0535  to schedule your fall vaccine appointment.

Also, ALL horses should be dewormed with Equimax in the fall after 2 or 3 good hard frosts. The weather will probably give us our frosts in the next week or so. Before fall worming, please make sure we run a fecal egg test to make sure your worming program is working for you. You can drop off 1/2 of a fresh fecal ball per horse at the office (refrigerate between collection and delivery) or we can pick up a sample while we are doing your fall vaccines. Please do not deworm until we have your fecal samples! 
Must Have Chips to Play 

Specifically, all hunters and jumpers who compete under USEF or USHJA auspices have one year, until December 1, 2017, to get their horses microchipped if they would like to accumulate points. After December 1, 2018, horses without an international microchip will not be allowed to compete at all. Microchipping can be done with spring or fall vaccines or at a separate appointment. Please click here for more information from the USHJA or call 609-291-0535 to schedule your appointment.
girl with a black horse in the autumn under birch.
Holiday Hours

The holidays are coming! Our office will be closed and there will be no scheduled appointments on the following days:

Monday, December 26, 2016
Monday, January 2, 2017

As we do 365 days a year, we will have a doctor on call for emergencies. Should you experience an emergency, please call the office at 609-291-0535 and follow the automated instructions to reach the doctor on call. We at Foundation Equine wish you peaceful (emergency-free!) and horse-filled holidays!
No Joke Choke
What Is Choke?

If a person chokes, you have approximately 7 minutes to clear the obstruction before they die. This is because a choking person has blocked their trachea, or windpipe, and cannot breathe. A choked horse is a bit more fortunate (though still pretty uncomfortable.) A choked horse has blocked the esophagus, or the pathway to the stomach. This means the horse is unable to swallow, but he can still breathe.

What Causes Choke?

It can be caused by poor hay quality, poor dentition, or not enough water. It can also be caused
by feeding dry hay cubes, dry hay pellets, or dry beet pulp. Even horses that have good teeth, good quality hay and plenty of water can choke if they eat too quickly or have choked in the past.

How Can I Tell If My Horse Is Choking?

Most choked horses were recently fed. They are often coughing, moving their heads and necks in strange ways, and usually have feed or other copious discharge coming from their noses and mouths. They may chew on food but they will not swallow it and they will not drink. Some horses may panic if this happens and others stand quietly or even look depressed. Click here to see a video that shows a horse choking quite calmly.

What Should I Do?

Horse on nature. Portrait of a horse brown horse horse stands in the paddock
At first, nothing ! Leave your horse alone. Remove any feed or hay from the stall or field and leave your horse to work this out on his own. In about 90% of cases, horses can fix it themselves by coughing, drooling, and working their esophageal muscles to soften and remove the obstruction. If you can feel the obstruction in the neck, you can try to massage it down toward the stomach. If you aren't sure about what you are feeling, leave it alone.  If your horse is not happily eating in 1.5 to 2 hours, then it has become an emergency. Please call the veterinarian immediately!

What Should I NEVER Do?

Do NOT tie your horse's head up. This makes it harder for him to get rid of all the extra saliva he is making and then it's more likely he will breathe in his saliva or feed material. This causes pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Do NOT force water into your horse's mouth with a hose or syringe or in any other way. He cannot swallow, so often this water ends up in his lungs along with feed material. This practice is very likely to give your horse pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Do not force your horse to walk. It just isn't necessary. This is a case where the horse's instincts are good and they will do all the moving necessary to resolve the choke themselves if they can.

How Do I Know if the Choke Is Better?

fluffy white pony pasturing outdoors on short grass
Horses that have loosened their choke will often go straight to the water bucket and drink. They will stop coughing. If you clean off their nose and mouth, you will not see any more discharge. If you offer them a very small amount of grain or grass, they will take it eagerly and swallow (watch for the "glug!")

How Do We Treat Choke?

After two hours of trying to resolve the choke on his own, if a horse is still showing signs of discomfort, it is time to call in the veterinarian. Often after two hours, the horse may be drooling
and coughing less, but he still won't want to eat and he may be depressed. When the veterinarian arrives, we will do a physical exam, paying special attention to how the lungs sound. We will usually treat the horse with pain medication, a muscle relaxer, and tranquilization. This drops the horse's head and allows us to pass a tube up the nose and into the esophagus to the blockage. Then we try to soften the clumped feed by pumping water at it and allowing the water and feed material to drain out the tube, nose and mouth or down into the stomach. Sometimes we are able to push the impaction into the stomach. We may administer antibiotics if we are concerned about the risk of pneumonia.

In severe cases, or if the stuck feed material is very close to the mouth, we may refer the horse to a hospital with an endoscope. The endoscope allows the hospital veterinarian to see the obstruction and to remove it piece by piece. This can be done under standing sedation or under general anesthesia if necessary. Most chokes do not require such intensive treatment.

How Do I Prevent a Choke?

It is important that horses can chew properly and have access to plenty of water. Make sure you have a veterinarian examine your horse's teeth at least once a year. Unfortunately, even horses that have excellent teeth and plenty of water can still choke. To prevent this, feed greedy eaters in such a way that they can't get a large mouthful of feed. There are three options:
  1. You can spread out their grain in a large basin so it's only one grain deep. This prevents a horse from taking a huge mouthful that he may not chew properly.
  2. Or, you can fill their feed bucket with large, rounded rocks that they have to move around in order to eat.
  3. Or, stop feeding a horse dry grain or hay pellets. If the feed material is wet enough to be drunk through a straw, it is wet enough that it can't make an obstruction in the esophagus.
Close up of horse eating from bucket     Note  Soft Focus at 100 , best at smaller sizes
For horses that have choked in the past, it is very important to do one of these three things EVERY time you feed. Many horses who have suffered a moderate or severe choke have some scarring in their esophagus that makes it more likely for them to choke again. Also, for older horses that don't chew as well, it is important that pieces of feed are either soft or small or both. Horses can choke on just one dry hay cube or one overly large apple slice, so it is important to be conscious of the risk of choke every 
time you feed or treat your horse.
  Foundation Equine Wellness and Performance | 609-291-0535|
Like us on Facebook
Photo Credits: Bad teeth:; Nasogatric tube: