One recent Sunday eve, I was called to the home barn of a friend who horse was choking…

The cause: was small pelleted supplemental feed that was fed dry as directed on bag.
The cure: was a worrisome night, after hours and out of area vet call, tubing, followup meds for several days, and a vet bill just under $600.
The prevention: for this episode is to pre-soak the feed with a small measure of water, allowing it to saturate and expand before it gets consumed.

Common objections to pre-soaking feed:

  • “My horse will not eat it wet.” …Fix is rule #1
  • “My vet told me I can feed this dry.” (Very few vets would recommend feeding dry. I do not know any who would!)
  • “I have been feeding this dry for years.” Yes, the dice roll favors dry feeding! We are
    speaking of the few times this practice causes choke. Besides the trauma and the cost,
    just one choke episode can have unwanted result. I have seen are scar tissue in the
    nasal or esophagi passages and an injection site infection that was beyond ugly.

On my ‘Pre-soak-the-dry-feed’ soapbox:
It would be commendable if the feed companies would recommend pre-soaking their feed on the bags. The commercial reasons for not doing so, do not measure up to the suffering of the horses that will have a choke episode and their owners, who must learn the hard and expensive way to safely feed all pellets pre-soaked with water, not dry. It is sad that education about the danger of choke in horses related to the unnatural practice of feeding pelleted concentrated feed without pre-soaking it in water, is not carried in a simple caution on all these feed bags. It seems manufacturers see it as a negative because unwitting customers will go buy the bag without that caution, thinking that, if not noted, it is safe to feed dry. This will save time and work. Marketing competition wins, horses loose! Horses in their natural world would never find a pan of super tasty concentrated pelleted goodies! Grazing naturally includes the consumption of large amounts of water, 98% +. Even hay does not expand much. Instead natural feeds are consumed in relative leisure, over many hours with water as needed. Even oats fed dry does not pose the choke risk of pellets as it only expands very slowly and minimally. Pellets, however, expand quickly, doubling and some quadrupling while absorbing available moisture. Totally ok, if it is happening in a bucket, before it is fed! Choke is not the only increased risk of the dry pellet feeding practice. The horse is also put at greater risk of colic from this practice. Imagine this dry mass as it moves through miles of the gut, soaking up every bit of liquid as it goes, expanding, becoming denser and larger, slowing the progress like a traffic jam…, now the possibilities for colic are
many. We’ve upped the odds!

Feeding rule:

#1- All changes to feed should be made incrementally over 10-14 days.
(Come join our educational gatherings, learn about the rest of the feeding rules!)