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Managing choke-prone horses

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  • Managing choke-prone horses

    I now have three horses on the farm that are prone to choke. As long as their feed is soaked, they are fine. However, we are heading into freezing temps and I have no hot water at my barn. I do have access to cold water, but at some point this winter that gets not very appealing, plus even might freeze quickly.

    The last time the vet was out I asked about switching feed, in case there was something better out there, but she said there really wasn't. I feed Blue Seal Trotter, which is pellets.

    So my questions are: *is* there a better feed for choke-prone horses? And, any suggestions on soaking the feed in cold temps?

    I thought of getting a plug-in kettle and heating boiling water to pour over their feed. Other suggestions much appreciated!

    (I know about other choke-prevention techniques, e.g. putting rocks in their feed).
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  • Original Poster

    PS, just read LauraKY's thread about her choke prone horse.

    My particular problem is that I have three of these horses and so am looking for a logistical solution to needing to soak 3 horses' feed. Someone on that thread posted to "cook" the grain in a crockpot which sounds like a very interesting idea; however could I do enough for all three horses? (unlikely, but I don't own a slow cooker so don't know for sure).

    Also, all the horses are fed on the ground, there's no competition for food as they eat out of nosebags (they put their heads down when they eat).
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    • #3
      The senior feed pellets disolve alot quicker than ordinary pellets which might help.
      I used to add the senior pellets to soaked beet pulp for my "choker" which also keeps everything wet and mushy but that needs to be soaked too.

      Would it be possible to bring hot water to the barn at feeding time?

      The plug in tea kettle is a good ides, they heat up very fast.
      "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." --Ghandi


      • #4
        Use cold water

        If you put out feed immediately before the horses eat, there will be no problem. the horses eat it before it freezes. If ypu put out grain ahead of time, which I don't do as I have no rats and don't want any, you can wet it just before you let them into their stalls.

        Most water lines run under ground, I figure mine deliver water at about 50 degrees so you have a little time.
        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


        • #5
          Here's what we do for our old guy that is very prone to choke.

          We don't have hot water at the barn either so I bought a 24 cup coffee percolator at a thrift store (I think they are about $50 new) and use that to heat water. I have a 5 gallon Igloo water container, one of the round ones.
          We soak the beet pulp in the Igloo with the hot water.
          Pour the hot soupy beet pulp over his pellets at meal time and then add a little more hot water. They break down quickly.

          Our vet advised building a platform in his stall to raise his feeder. The gravity helps the food go down easier.
          We also use a big, oval water tub as his feeder so the slop is spread out and he can't get big mouthfuls at once.

          Our guy can't eat hay any more because of choking so he gets his gruel three times a day in the winter when the pastures are done.
          Kanoe Godby
          See, I was raised by wolves and am really behind the 8-ball on diplomatic issue resolution.


          • #6
            My gelding has choked 6 times in, 4 this year alone. The vet advised me the first time that a textured feed is best, also if you can't soak put big, smooth rocks in the buckets so that will slow them down, also if you can give them small amounts more frequently that'll be good.


            • #7
              I would definitely keep trying to soak. A plug in kettle could work, but first I would try using the cold water. If you do it right before you feed, it will probably be ok. Is there a house on the property that has hot water? It might not be ideal, but you can bring a bucket of hot water from the house to the barn, which really isn't very hard to do, and you problems would be solved. Otherwise, possibly drizzling the food with oil may help, and using a large feed pan with several fist sized or larger rocks in it would help. Textured feed is supposed to be better for horses prone to choke, but I've had a horse choke twice on TC Senior, so I'm not sure I believe that.
              come what may

              Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013


              • #8
                I soaked BP 1 part BP to 2 parts water and just got a couple of milk just to fill with hot water and haul out. It takes a lot less time to soften food up when you use warm water.

                Are these horses still able to have hay or are they toothless wonders on complete feed only now?
                A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                • #9
                  How far do you live from the barn, and how much water do you need?

                  Assuming you need to heat it in the barn, due to distance and/or amount of water then don't boil it. Boiling water will destroy some nutrients. If it's "tap water hot", that's plenty hot enough

                  And yes, I would continue with the water. I wouldn't trust any "this is a better feed for choke horses" to alleviate all risk.

                  An alternative might be to pre-soak beet pulp at home, bring it with you, and dump the pellets into the mix (or beep into the pellets LOL). If the beep is quite squishy wet, then the pellets will soak up the extra water and break down
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                  • #10
                    This might be the smartest purchase I ever made


                    It still gets used even though I have hot water.

                    But when I didn't, I would set it in a muck bucket of water as soon as I got to the barn (or a regular bucket if I wasn't riding). It heats up to almost boiling hot pretty fast and has thermostat control.

                    Like I said, I would heat up a full/half muck bucket of water and when I was done riding I would have warm water to sponge off sweat marks, clean up any horse, clean tack or make a mush for dinner. If I wasn't riding I generally just put it in a regular water bucket. It heats up pretty fast, especially if you are just looking for "warm".

                    It's also really useful at shows for all the same reasons. Nowadays we use it to heat up water to put in water buckets when the regular water is frozen - the joys of living in a southern climate - when it finally does get down below freezing for multiple days, our pipes are not prepared!
                    Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                    • Original Poster

                      Wow DMK you might have solved my problems!

                      What I do right now is half fill a muck bucket and leave the three chokers' nosebags in there until the pellets start to dissolve. Then I dunk the other geriatric horses nosebags in, not for as long, simply b/c they are old.

                      Everyone can eat hay, thankfully the choke issues aren't that bad.

                      There is a house on the farm, but one regular bucket isn't enough to keep my normal routine. I like that immersion heater b/c it means I can still do what I've been doing, which is working.

                      I *knew* COTH would be helpful!!
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                      • #12
                        Sounds like you have your answer, but another thought is to quit feeding pelleted feed. Do your choke-prone horses need that type of grain? I have a mare who chokes on what I feed most of my other horses (TACO Complete Feed), so she only gets rolled oats....and if I feel like she needs something additional I can add in maybe 1/3 of the complete to 2/3 rolled oats mixed well and she does okay with that too. But if I feed her [only] pellets she chokes every time.
                        Flying F Sport Horses
                        Horses in the NW


                        • #13
                          Be careful with those bucket heaters. I would put it on an extension cord and place it 10 feet or so outside the barn just in case.
                          McDowell Racing Stables

                          Home Away From Home


                          • #14
                            My gelding is also prone to choke and had two fairly scary eposides when eating a textured complete feed...which is when I started looking for a new feed to help reduce the risk going forward in case the beet-pulp based textured feed was the culprit. At the time I had several people (vet included) suggest any of the Blue Seal Sentinel line which is an extruded feed meaning it has been cooked (kinda like they do with dog food). The texture of the feed looks like dog food but my gelding absolutely loves it and it turns to absolute mush with even the slightest bit of water/saliva so the risk of them choking is significantly reduced.

                            You can also look into the PreVent feeders that are marketed for choke-prone horses. Kinda on the pricy side but definitely cheaper than a choke-induced vet bill!


                            • Original Poster

                              Hmmm, thanks, guys, on the feed suggestions. I'm open to changing feeds, but it seems like there's a difference of opinion as to whether that's really going to eliminate the problem . . . and my own vet thought there were problems with every kind of feed (I specifically asked about extruded, as I'd heard that it might be better). Not to say she's definitely right, but I also don't want to disregard her opinion.

                              Thanks for the heads up Laurierace, about the heaters. Good suggestion to have it outside the barn, which can be done pretty easily.

                              Again, thank you for all the good ideas!
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                              • #16
                                I feed the Blue Seal Vintage to the 32 yo senior here. It breaks down very rapidly even in cold water. I warm the water up when the weather gets cold because I noticed the horses seem to prefer warmer water and feed when the temps drop.

                                I have a method for soaking hay cubes in the cold weather that has been working well so far. I have some styrofoam insulated coolers that my daughters medicines are shipped in. They are heavy duty and thick walled. I put a bucket with the hay cubes inside the cooler and pour boiling water in it. I put the lid on the cooler and let it sit between feedings. When it is time for the next meal, the hay cubes have completely dissolved and it is still warm, so the horses have time to eat if before it freezes. It doesn't usually get extremely cold here, so how long it lasts before freezing will vary. It has worked for me in the 20 degree range anyway.

                                If you can, I would recommend looking into the Vintage Sr-it will make things much easier!


                                • #17
                                  I have three that will choke if fed dry feed. I got one of these for winter soaking: http://www.coleman.com/product/hot-w...tCategory=2200 I love it. It's more expensive than DMK's suggestion but it works for me.
                                  "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by SMF11 View Post
                                    I now have three horses on the farm that are prone to choke. As long as their feed is soaked, they are fine. However, we are heading into freezing temps and I have no hot water at my barn. I do have access to cold water, but at some point this winter that gets not very appealing, plus even might freeze quickly.
                                    Is this your barn (ie are you the barn owner or boarder?). Would it be possible to carry two buckets of hot water from the house? Or boil up some water and put in a large thermos. I used to bring a larger thermos of hot water to add to cold water to soak pellets. Now that I'm back at a barn without hot water, I may have to do it again.

                                    Another option you could try is if you need to soak ahead of time, try putting your soaked feed in an insulated beach cooler (like those polar rollers you see taken to the beach). Even feed left in them over night hasn't frozen. It's not toasty warm, but you could always add some warm or bit of hot to it.


                                    • #19
                                      Who is the asshat that wants to burn the barn down? Seriously, those thumbs need to go!
                                      McDowell Racing Stables

                                      Home Away From Home


                                      • #20
                                        I hate the thumbs.

                                        I second the "be careful of the bucket heater". We had one that slid and melted the side of the bucket. Maybe it was faulty I dont know, dont care. If it can melt the bucket it can start a fire if left a little longer.

                                        I have your same problem. I feed my toothless wonder three times per day, 2x gruel of TCS/Beet and a lunch of alfalfa cubes. I work so i actually bring his hay cubes to work and run hot water over them than drive them the 5 miles to the barn and they are ready to go for him. Otherwise I just use the cold water. It doesnt freeze and he still loves his gruel. I use a huge rubbermaid feeder so the feed is all spread out and its hard for him to "flip" and then eat off the dirt or shavings.

                                        There is no perfect answer I dont think. You just do what you can with what you have.