Happy Birthday Sandelee!

It was an exciting but scary weekend this weekend (June 28-30, 2024) as we celebrated Sandelee's 36th Birthday! Excited because that is a very grand age for a miniature horse, and scary because after celebrating Sandelee's birthday on Friday (though Saturday the 29th was her actual birthday), we found she was having a "choke" episode. In the morning, we gave her some apple slices and let our two year old granddaughter have a small ride on Sandelee as she loves kids and has given many pony rides to new riders. Sadly though, we discovered at evening feeding time that Sandelee had eaten something she shouldn't have, whether it was a bit of hay or a bit too long of a piece of grass. At Sandelee's advanced age, she is missing quite a few of her teeth and has been on a "bucket" diet (only being able to graze on nibble length grass and no hay) for the last several years. Since she is herded with other horses who are not on a bucket diet, and who eat hay, it's always a risk that she has a choke episode, but the alternative is for her to live a lonely existence in a bare turnout which is no way to live out one's "golden years".. Since coming to us 6 years ago, she has had several choke episodes. Most of them I have been able to address myself, however, the first episode was very scary on my part, and I had no idea how to deal with it myself so I called out one of our local vets to help me understand what was going on and how to deal with it. The last time Sandelee had a choke episode was 2 or 3 years ago and it was a BIG DEAL and it took the vet over an hour to get it cleared up. For those of you who have followed our blogs over the years, a massive choke episode is what caused us to put our gelding, Max, down (though there were a lot of other issues going on as well, this was just the final straw for the old man). 

Well Im happy to report that Sandelee has recovered nicely and that I was able to handle it myself, though I was fully prepared to call out a vet early Saturday morning to help her out if my treatments hadn't worked. 

So what is "choke"? As most horse people know, horses can't throw up, so where we humans might choke and throw up, when a horse "chokes" whatever they choke on goes up in their sinuses. This can lead to a secondary infection even if the choke itself is cleared up. Most of the "chokes" that I've seen have been mid neck. Those can be cleared up by heavily massaging and manipulating the neck (which makes the horse very cranky, but it does work). Max experienced a deep chest choke which is very difficult to clear up. It most likely happened due to build up of scar tissue from being a "wind sucking" horse. Sandelee's last big choke episode was also a deep chest choke. This last weekend's choke seemed to be deep chest but more mild. 


Lots of coughing, as it is irritating and they are trying to dislodge the mass. The mass is usually made up of too big of a chuck of hay or long grass that didnt get chewed properly. 

Discharge from the nose, usually the color of what they ate that got lodged, though I have seen Sandelee have a choke that didnt show up in her nose until later, though she was coughing. In Max's case, it was big bubbly clear mucous as I think it was mixed with stomach acid. It was very scary to see! 

My method of clearing up a choke:

I mixed Rice Bran Oil with Tummy B Calm and put it into a large syringe (no needle of course) and squirted it into her mouth. Its my version of "Roto Rooter"...but there is also an issue of the oil going into the sinuses. However, after having a bunch of goo go into the sinuses, I'm not sure its a real consideration. Anything but boogers in the sinuses is a bad thing, and even that is not so great but dislodging the mass is more important and whatever ends up in the lungs and sinuses can be dealt with after they have pulled through the choke.

Firmly massaging the larynx after finding where the choke is lodged. Sometimes that is easy to do, and sometimes its hard to find...especially when you are first learning how to do it. Your horse will not be happy with you doing this but it has to be done. 

In this case, we discovered the "choke" at about 8:30pm on Friday (zero chance of a vet coming out) so once I got Sandelee relatively comfortable, I left her with a bit of very wet feed, and checked on her every hour until bedtime when she seemed to be comfortable and ate a bit of food. By the next morning she seemed fully recovered. 

NOTE: do NOT leave hay in with a horse who is choking. Either leave no food in the stall or leave a SMALL bucket of very wet soaked pellets and a bucket of fresh water. 

FOLLOW UP: After a choke episode I add Cootie Kicker and Cough No More for at least a week to help clear up the lungs and sinus passages to avoid infection. This seems to work very well as I have seen no signs of infection even though we have been through several choke sessions and its the number one thing the vet warned me of. 

So congratulations, Sandelee! Both for making it to your 36th birthday, but for surviving yet another choke session! We appreciate every day you spend with us, our sweet old lady!


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1 comment
  • What a story! Oh what we go through for a our precious 2-legged ones, and what they put us through when we worry about them!

    Angela on

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