What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Spasm or Tensing of Neck Muscle


Spasms of the strap muscles low on the neck is a classic finding in horses that are experiencing esophageal obstruction (choke), particularly when it occurs in conjunction with coughing, extension of the neck, and when feed material is coming out of a horse's nostrils.

These spasms may also be associated with pain or difficulty swallowing, and it may sometimes occur when a vet is passing a naso-gastric tube for purposes of diagnosing or treating a problem. Horses that crib and "wind suck" flex the muscles of the neck during wind sucking. The muscles become overdeveloped in horses that do this frequently.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you think that the horse has an esophageal obstruction (choke),
    • If the foal has milk run out its nostrils while nursing.
  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If this seems mild or occasional and the horse seems normal otherwise.
    • If this is the only sign and the horse seems normal otherwise.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


What To Do

Evaluate your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to whether they may be experiencing the other signs associated with choke. Contact your vet with findings and concerns.

your vet's role

Your vet may want to pass a nasogastric tube to ensure that nothing is blocking the horse's esophagus (ie they do not have "choke").
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • When did you first notice this?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite otherwise?
  • Do you notice any other signs of a problem?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Have you notice the horse engage in cribbing?

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP