Vomiting in Horses

Myth or reality: can horses vomit? Have you heard the legend that horses can’t vomit? If not, it may seem obvious to you that of course, they can. Now that you’re thinking about it, have you ever seen one do so?

This legend is….so true! It is physically impossible for a horse to vomit, with one exception:  when they are very, very sick.

Horses are physically unable to throw up because they have a muscle which forms a band and surrounds their esophagus. This band of muscle acts as a one-way valve for food passing through the horse’s esophagus. In other words, what goes down will not come back up. After the food has passed through the horse’s esophagus, or throat, the band presses down and squeezes shut so that the horse can’t vomit.

Another reason why the body of a horse does not allow it to vomit is the way the esophagus, or throat canal, leads to the stomach. This angle enhances the band’s ability to not allow food to pass through. The reason why a horse’s body is structured like this is to prevent the horse from getting colic. Colic is when a horse’s stomach becomes bloated. The bloating of the stomach is accompanied with abdominal pain, or tummy aches, which can range from mild to severe and life threatening.

So despite what might seem obvious, horses cannot throw up. However, if your horse does, contact a veterinarian immediately because that is a big signal that your horse is very sick. And about those tummy pains: Another reason to contact your vet would be if you suspect that your horse’s stomach is bloated, because horse colic can be fatal in some cases.

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