If you have a horse who consumes pasture at record speed, you might use a grazing muzzle to both slow and reduce his grass intake. So could you use a similar tactic for a horse who inhales his pelleted meals, potentially putting him at risk for choke? Researchers recently set out to answer that question.

Choke in horses is a scary and dangerous condition for all involved. It occurs when feed becomes lodged in the esophagus, commonly due to rapid feed—particularly grain or concentrate—consumption. Esophageal damage can occur if the choke is severe or is not treated promptly by a veterinarian.

Erin Venable, MS, PhD, and colleagues from Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, recently compared horses’ consumption rates when eating commercially available pelleted feed without a grazing muzzle (NM) and when outfitted with two types of muzzles: the Easy Breathe Grazing Muzzle (EBGM, which has a large square hole to eat through) and the Tough 1 Nylon Grazing Muzzle (TNGM, which has a small circular hole to eat through).

The team employed eight mature stock-type horses kept individually in stalls; each horse received each treatment once during the crossover study. For five consecutive days, the horses received about 5 pounds of pellets in an oval pan for 10 minutes. The researchers recorded the weight of any spilled or uneaten feed.

Ultimately, the team determined that horses wearing either type of grazing muzzle consumed the pellets slower than they did with no muzzle. However, horses wearing the TNGM increased their intake rate over time; by the fifth day, the horses’ intake rate was similar to the NM group. The team