Horse Wellness 101: Why Do Horses Vomit?

So I was out on the ranch the other day with my horse Spirit when she started making some seriously weird noises.

I thought for sure she was gonna toss her cookies but nothing came up!

Got me thinking – why do we always say horses puke when they really can’t?

Turns out there’s more to the story.

While horses may display signs you’d associate with vomitin’, their anatomy means they truly can’t puke like other animals.

Instead, they suffer from a condition called “stomach upset” which has ya’ll thinkin’ they tosses their breakfast when really it’s somethin’ else altogether.

Read on partner and I’ll set ya straight on what’s really goin’ on with your pony’s “upchucking.”

When Horses Get Too Hungry – The Real Deal on “Overeating”


We all know horses love to gobble their grub but slow your roll, pony! When they scarf down hay and oats faster than an Iowa boy at a ribfest, it can overwhelm their sensitive one-chambered stomachs.

Unlike us two-chambered folks, horses only got one section for breakin’ down that chow. So when Spirit starts heaving like the exorcist after breakin’ her feeding record, she ain’t pukin’ – her tummy’s just in a twist!

See, instead of actually pukin’ up partially digested food, horses suffer from a condition called “stomach upset” when they overstuff themselves.

Their stomach gets so bloated and irritated, it causes dry heaving and making retching sounds. But since their esophagus isn’t built for regurgitation like ours, nothin’ actually comes back up out their mouth. They just stand there looking miserable with an upset tum.

The key is slowing Spirit’s roll at mealtimes. Divide her feed into multiple smaller portions throughout the day instead of one big ol’ trough full.

Give her hay around the clock so she’s always nibblin’ versus scarfin’ it all at once. With some portion control and multiple “mini meals,” she’ll avoid that stomach-churnin’ discomfort.

When Stomach Bugs Strike – What’s Really Happenin’ with Those “Issues”


Just like us, horses can come down with all sorts of gastrointestinal grief like ulcers, colic, infections and more.

Poor Spirit gets a nasty case of the trots one weekend and is looking green around the gills. You think for sure she’s gonna toss her cookies! But hold up there – again, horses truly can’t barf. So what the heck is really going on in her stomach?

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When a tummy bug takes hold of your pony, all sorts of nasty juices, gases, and funky microbes start brewing up an unhealthy cocktail deep in her one-chambered gut.

Instead of actual vomiting, this gassy, acidic irritant causes her stomach to become so inflamed and sensitive that it triggers dry heaving and retching sounds. You might even see her sticking her tongue out and drooling like she’s about to hurl. But I promise – no puke is coming up!

The key is recognizing the signs of stomach upset versus true sickness. Mild cases may clear up on their own with rest and basic first aid.

But infections, ulcers or full-blown colic definitely require the vet! With TLC and medical attention when needed, most stomach bugs will pass and your pony will be feelin’ shipshape again in no time.

Motion Sickness Myths – What’s Really Bugging Your Trail Pony?


I remember the first time I took Spirit out for a long trail ride. We barely made it a mile before she started looking distressed and heaving like crazy.

You’d think for sure she had a bad case of what us humans call “motion sickness,” right? Well hold on a sec cowboy, cuz horses truly can’t puke! So what was really botherin’ my sweet filly out on the trail that day?

While Spirit may have been showing classic signs we’d equate with carsickness – pale gums, shaky legs, dry heaving – the truth is her stomach wasn’t rebelling due to the motion.

Her sensitive digestive system was simply becoming inflamed and irritated by all the jostling, jumping and activity involved in our ride. The movement aggravated her stomach in a similar way overeating or an infection could. But no barf was coming up, pardner!

The key with trail riding is going slow and steady at first, making sure your pony gets her “sea legs” as we say.

Build up distance gradually over many rides so her belly grows accustomed to the bumpy motions of riding. Hydrating well, providing salty snacks as fuel, and keeping a relaxed pace will also help avoid stomach “upsets” when venturing out on the trail with your trusty steed.

Other Causes for Stomach “Issues” – Beneath the Surface of Common Myths


Folks will often blame problems like bolting feed, inhaling too much air, respiratory infections or medical issues as triggers for pony puke-fests.

But I’m here to bust those notions wide open, partner! When it truly comes down to brass tacks, horses cannot barf no matter the reason. So what’s the underlying deal with those less common “causes”?

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Whether it’s Spirit inhaling hay too fast, eating before or after exercise, breathing issues, or other ailments – none of those trigger actual vomiting.

Instead, each stress on her sensitive gut lining causes inflammation, acid build up, irritation and pressure inside her stomach.

All that internal distress in turn triggers the dry heaving, straining and retching that fools onlookers into thinking chucks are coming up. But I promise – when you lift her lip, you won’t find no puke dribbling out!

The key is really understanding the intricacies of that equine digestive system.

With some know-how on what’s truly happening below the surface, you can better assess Spirit’s “issues,” provide proper care, and stop worrying needlessly about pony puke that was never there to begin with!

Why Hay Is Important for Horse Stomach Health

Horses evolved to eat almost constantly by grazing on grass and hay provides that natural grazing behavior. Feeding quality hay helps keep a horse’s gastrointestinal tract healthy and functioning properly.

Hay acts as fiber in the digestive system, helping food move through the tract. The botanical structural components in hay also promote beneficial bacteria growth in the gut. constant small meals prevent stomach upset from occurring.

Hay has lower calories and higher fiber than concentrate feeds, which is gentler on horses’ sensitive stomachs.

Fiber fermentation by gut bacteria produces compounds that protect and heal the digestive lining. quality hay should make up at least half of a leisure horse’s daily caloric intake for optimal digestive health.

Proper Hydration and its Role in Stomach Function

Water acts as a lubricant allowing food to pass through the digestive tract easily without getting stuck. adequate hydration is crucial to stomach health as digestive enzymes and acids need water to properly break down and assimilate nutrients from food.

Dehydration stresses the system and inhibits proper stomach functioning. horses drinking regularly are less likely to experience gastrointestinal issues.

Water consumption should be monitored and adjusted based on temperature, activity level and salt intake to avoid dehydration risks.

Free choice water should always be available to maintain healthy stomach pH balance and motility.

Managing Stress and its Toll on the Equine Digestive System

Stress raises cortisol levels which can decrease digestion and slow stomach emptying. Prolonged high stress impairs immunity and barrier function throughout the gastrointestinal tract.

Stress-related stomach upset is a common cause of mild colic symptoms in anxious or overly-excitable horses. Minimizing stressors through consistent routines, turnout time and low-impact training helps keep cortisol at healthy levels.

Relaxation techniques have been shown to reduce stress levels improving digestive function and gut health. Preventing arguments and bringing calm energy around horses supports a balanced stress response and happier tummy.

Supplementing Probiotics for Digestive Support

Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria boosting healthy microflora balance in the equine hindgut where most nutrients are absorbed.

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Certain strains like Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Enterococcus faecium have been shown to reduce colic incidents and promote digestive regularity when supplemented consistently long-term. Probiotics aid digestion by fermenting fiber and producing short-chain fatty acids fuelling the intestinal cells.

They compete for adhesion sites preventing pathogens while strengthening gut lining integrity. Choose a high quality probiotic designed specifically for horses following dose guidelines carefully.

Assessing Hay & Pasture Quality Impacts

Nutritionally deficient or excessively mature/poor quality forage negatively impacts stomach health. Low fiber diets or extremely coarse, stemmy hay can cause digestive upset.

Molds, fungi and mycotoxins in improperly stored hay are frequently implicated in equine gastric ulcer syndrome development.

Certain toxic weeds like ragwort or foxtail can induce colic when ingested. Testing hay periodically and rotating pastures prevents toxins build up. Hay should smell fresh with no visible mold, dust or foreign material ensuring easy digestion.

Common Medications and their Digestion Effects

Some equine drugs like broad-spectrum antibiotics, NSAIDs and dewormers temporarily disrupt normal hindgut microbes impairing function. Oral joint supplements, vitamin-mineral mixes and magnesium based antacids alter stomach pH levels influencing digestive enzyme activity.

Always follow labeled guidelines carefully, avoiding combining multiple supplements in one feeding. Consider natural alternatives where possible to support gut health minimally.

Consult an equine pharmacist for individual medication reviews, especially long-term. Monitor horses closely when starting or changing prescriptions for gastric side effects.

Managing Dental Health Impacts Stomach Function

Poorly aligned, uneven or sharp teeth impair proper chewing making it difficult to break down fibrous forage. Incompletely masticated food causes digestive strain as larger particles are harder to break down once swallowed.

Preventative dental care every 6-12 months by a qualified equine dentist checks for tooth abnormalities. Senior horses especially need regular floating to maintain balanced dental arc. Signs like head-shaking, quidding, poor bodily condition or choking while eating indicate potential dental issues impacting stomach health requiring attention.

The Lowdown on Why Your Pony Ain’t Pukin’: Horses Can’t Barf!

To Sum it All Up Partner… while it may look like our pony pals are tossing their cookies when they get that crazy stomach look, I’m here to tell you they truly can’t barf like other animals.

So next time Spirit starts heaving after a big meal or bouncy trail ride, don’t panic thinking puke is on the way.

Chances are she just has a bad case of stomach inflammation or irritation causing those convincing heaves and grunts.

With some TLC for her sensitive tum like smaller meals, probiotics, salt licks and good gut health, she’ll be back in happy hopping form feeling chipper as a critter at a campfire.

Hope this set the story straight on those myths about horsie upchuck. Use this know-how to better care for your own pony’s belly.

Let me know if you ever need any more horse sense decoded, partner! Now if you’ll excuse me, I best be hittin’ the hay – got an early morning mucking stalls ahead. Till next time, happy trails!


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