Soaked feed causing mild choke symptoms?

Has anyone had any experience with various soaked feeds causing mild choke symptoms in their horses, senior or otherwise?

Background: I have a 28 year old TB gelding. About 2 years ago, during his dental check, our vet suggested he likely had the beginnings of EOTRH. He wasn’t eating hay well at this time, which is what prompted the check. Our vet explained about the option of removing the painful teeth, but we were both reluctant to do it as he does have Shivers and other history of slightly neuro symptoms and doesn’t handle sedation great - gets very wobbly, but it isn’t typically enough to make the dental job easy. I switched him to chopped grass hay first, to see if that would help, being softer and easier to chew. He ate that much better until about a month ago, when he decided he preferred chopped alfalfa hay for a week or so, before becoming pretty disinterested in all hay. He’ll eat a couple mouthfuls at a time, but doesn’t make any effort to finish it.

At that time, I tried switching him to Purina Senior Feed, as I’ve been told that it has higher forage contents in it for the senior horses that can’t eat hay well. I mixed this with his usual grain, and added water, as the bag says to do. About the third night of this, I noticed very mild choke symptoms. He stepped away from his meal midway through, was pawing and stretching his neck and curling his lip, in addition to making kind of a deep swallow/gulping noise. He finally coughed up a bit of slime, and then was happy again. The next night I added even more water in hopes that it was just too dry the night before, but he had the same experience, so I put him back on his regular dry grain.

The vet took a look last week, and again said he’s not a candidate for the tooth removal at this age and with his past history, which is fine with me. The horse is pretty happy eating his regular grain, although he spills a bit more than he used to. He also sometimes “self wets” his feed by splashing water from his waterer in his food bucket - which is why I thought he would appreciate the soaked feed. Our vet basically said at this age, you kind of just have to find what he’s happy to eat and go with it, and it may change from time to time as the old guys get a little picky. He suggested trying beet pulp if we wanted to try and make his feed easier to chew.

Today I gave him some well soaked beet pulp in addition to his regular grain to see what he thought, and he had the same experience that he did with the wet senior feed. Moved away from his meal, mildly uncomfortable, but not a true choke. So he’s basically telling me that he just wants the grain he’s been eating forever, and not to soak his food, which is fine. His weight and condition have not suffered since he stopped eating large amounts of hay, and he’s still happy for grain time.

I am mostly curious if other people have seen this in their horses. I’ve always thought that soft, wet feed was easier for them to chew and eat, but obviously my guy is having a harder time with it for some reason.

Additionally, if anyone has any suggestions for other grains to try for him that have worked well for senior horses, I would love to have options to try in case he decides that he really doesn’t like or can’t eat the grain he’s on now (nutrena Triumph Triple 10 Textured feed)

My 28 yo had a bad choke episode last year so what I feed is pretty soupy. How wet are you feeding? We haven’t had any problems since going soup.


I think your horse is a perfect example of the fact that horses are all unique and no one thing works for all horses.

Horses take being unique as a challenge.


I did think maybe that was the problem. They first night it was like a mash, the second was soup. Lots of water. Didn’t seem to make a difference.

You did hit the nail on the head with that one. He has been “unique” his whole life, but we’ve learned to accept him for it.

Yes my last horse choked on wet feeds. I’ve seen him choke on sloppy bran mash and soaked hay pellets.

What I found worked for him was to swap his feed bucket out for a very wide one so that his feed was no deeper than an inch. My horse was basically hurling his gob deep into his feed bin and filling his mouth with as much food as would fit, so spreading the feed over a larger surface area prevented him from doing that. He had to nibble it up with his lips instead and that kept each mouthful to a reasonable size.

I used a 44 gallon drum cut lengthways, not in half like for a water bucket.


My horse developed a motility defect in his esophagus which caused him to choke quite often. He needed his food soupy but he hates it. So we just had his bucket up high above where he had his issue. I fed him sentinel senior feed at the recommendation of my vet since it dissolved easily even when not soaked.

He didn’t have issues with hay though. I have a friend who has a horse with EOTRH and had teeth pulled. She feeds him soaked hay cubes since eating regular hay is hard for him.

Not to alarm you, but when I had a horse that quietly dealt with a choke, it meant that she was choking frequently enough that it didn’t really bother her anymore. Your horse may be in the same boat.

After going through that, this is absolutely a horse I’d scope to see if there’s anything actually amiss in the esophagus. Hopefully it’s nothing, but this could be a warning sign of a partial obstruction.


I would wonder if mixing his regular grain w the soaked feed (I think I understood you to say that) could cause a problem somehow.

Do you soak or wet? I find wetting is better, than leaving to soak.

Sometimes too, grain can be off and turn them off of it. Like over cooked. Is he eating it at all? Is he actually choking or just off the grain?

I had a horse that always choked on beet pulp, so it could be that also.

Adding in that we have 2 horses who have had teeth removed and they both do fine with just wetting the grain.

We tried both ways. The first night it happened it was left to soak, second night had water added at feeding time, and the beet pulp was left to soak when we tried that.
He’s eating, and seems to be fine on his regular grain. And I hesitate to call it a true “choke” but that’s the best description I can come up for a comparison. It’s not really an experiment that I want to keep trying to get a better diagnosis, since he is happy to eat his regular grain.

I did have the thought of scoping, but we’re in the same predicament there of not wanting to sedate this horse unless absolutely necessary. I think if the symptoms get worse, or start showing up with his regular grain, we will reevaluate this option.
My final thought is that he is grey, and does have multiple visible melanomas in the usual places - under his tail, small one on an eye lid - and there is a chance that he has something brewing internally. If that is the case, there’s not really anything to do for it except keep doing what he’s happy with and visually managing symptoms, keeping an eye out for things getting worse. This is not something that my vet brought up because the horse does eat his regular grain fine and seems to just have problems with the wet feed, but it’s definitely a thought in my mind.


I have an early retiree who started choking on hay last summer. Since he already gets soaked grain he clearly had to go looking for something else to cause a vet bill… All 3 times it was right at the throatlatch, far forward so no reflux, which makes me think he has or developing a stricture.

So for now I seem to have (probably temporarily) solved the problem by adding a small hole net to the hay hut (not your issue), but in abundance of caution I also changed up his feed pan to this big rectangular pan I found at TSC. That way his mush is basically a thin layer on the bottom and meals are less about mouthfuls and more about licking and slurping.


FYI, an upper airway scope can be (and frequently is) done without sedation. So not necessarily something to rule out based on not wanting to sedate.

My guess would be that he thinks he can get away with not chewing the soaked food (or chewing minimally) so he’s just slurping it down and consuming it too fast. EOTRH is very painful, so he is probably consuming the dry food pretty slowly to compensate as he needs to chew it. I would try soaked food (or soup) in a very large, wide pan and spread it around so he is unable to get big mouthfuls or suck it down too quickly, hopefully finding a balance between keeping him comfortable and slowing down his eating.

It’s also worth noting that choking irritates the esophagus, causing swelling and sometimes scarring. I would consider some anti-inflammatories for several days as this irritation makes them more prone to repeated chokes, and can turn into an awful cycle.


That’s what I did too and it also stopped my boy choking on wet feed

The horse prone to choke in our barn was switched to a feed bucket that is large enough to bathe two to three human babies. My goats like to stand in it.


This makes so much sense. I’ll switch my guy to a larger pan too. Thanks for sharing.

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My gelding is 28 and his teeth are still doing reasonably well. The dentist is coming twice a year now. He said that there are problems with some types and flavors of grain that have a pea-shaped bead of solid grain in the center even if you soak it for 24 hours. There is a little tool that can check for the hard centers according to the manager of our grain store. It isn’t a particular flavor or manufacturer.

I dread choke. A couple of people at our barn work off some board by doing the PM grain. One of them doesn’t seem to care about the little details. PM grain is set up during the AM so it soaks. She doesn’t add water to make the soupy gloppy messy tasty conglomeration my horse loves. Everybody else does. He slurps it down with water running out of his mouth. I noticed when she feeds that he nibbles it down too fast and doesn’t chew much. I’m hoping the new barn manager will educate the rookie barn owner.

I feed one of mine out of a 55 gallon plastic drum, halved lengthwise. Has really helped him not stuff himself and choke.

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