Rosie’s Happy Ending Will Choke You Up: How a Slow Feeding System Came to the Rescue

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By L.A. Sokolowski

Have you heard about choke? That was the question Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary, at Jumpin’ Jack Ranch in Arizona, posed to Facebook followers after the haven nearly lost one of its beloved residents, Rosie the donkey, four months ago. 

“Rosie had an episode of choke this past weekend,” wrote its president, Karen Pomroy, explaining how esophageal obstruction or “choke” occurs when an equine gets partially chewed food or other items stuck in their esophagus and becomes unable to swallow. 

Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary

Rosie, now in her mid-teens, is a very lucky jenny, rescued by Celine Myers of Ark Watch Foundation from a feedlot in Texas just as she and her foal Bunny were to be shipped to slaughter. Crammed amid other mothers and babies, Rosie had severe abscesses in all four hooves when she was rescued. Sadly, Bunny did not survive. After seven weeks of treatment at a veterinary clinic in Texas, Rosie arrived at Equine Voices.

According to Understanding Choke in Horses by Lillian M.B. Haywood, VMD, CVMA, for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, chokes are common equine emergencies with potentially serious consequences. Unlike in human medicine, where choking refers to a tracheal (or windpipe) obstruction, choke in horses refers to an obstruction of the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

Equines also do not have the ability to vomit because their digestive tract is designed to move food in only one direction; their cardiac sphincter squeezes so tightly that pressure from the stomach cannot open it. (1)

Karen with Gulliver. Photo courtesy of Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary

“One sign of choke,” Karen said, “is mucous coming from the nose. They may cough until the item is dislodged. If they are unable to dislodge the blockage, a veterinarian is needed.”

In Rosie’s case, Adobe Veterinary Center of Tucson was quick to respond.

 “Her feed was restricted, and she was isolated from her herd,” Karen said, “and she was not happy with either!”

But it was a happier ending for Karen and the Equine Voices team. “We are grateful for our vigilant and wonderful volunteers who recognized the signs of choke immediately and went for help.

“Rosie is doing much better and being monitored closely. All the donkeys on the ranch are fed using NibbleNet® hay bags, including Rosie. This type of bag forces them – and her — to eat more slowly!” she says, finding the unique webbing grid on each NibbleNet offers the best material for slow feeding, and its resistance to abrasion significantly extends its usefulness. 

Photo courtesy of Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary

“We are serious about quality, and serious about keeping our manufacturing in the United States,” says NibbleNet creator and horse owner, Deb Rusden. “We will never outsource. We give back to our community, our country and always to the horse.” NibbleNet donates 10% of everything it makes to help horses in need at organizations like Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary.

Learn more about The Original NibbleNet® (not sold in catalogs), a veterinarian-approved slow feeding system, at www.nibblenet.com.


1. Why Can’t Horses Vomit? Surprising Facts, Multimedia Educational Content About Horses, horsesandus.com