Can Horses Throw Up?

Horses are majestic creatures indeed. If you have a horse to care for, or you’re interested in keeping one, then there is a lot to know. Horses need a lot of attention, care and love in order to thrive.

Can Horses Throw Up?

As an equestrian, you will want to find out everything you can think of about horses. If you’re a horse lover, then you’ll want to know everything about their health, anatomy, and behaviors that you can. 

One of the many interesting questions we get about horses is whether they can throw up or not. So, this guide is all about whether horses can vomit or not, and what to do if they do. So, can horses throw up? 

Can Horses Throw Up?

The short answer to this question is that no, horses cannot throw up. This is due to the way that the digestive system of a horse is designed, as it makes it near impossible for them to be sick or throw up naturally.

If a horse does throw up, which is incredibly rare, then it is a sign that there is something seriously wrong with the horse, and this is typically a fatal problem. 

As humans, we throw up for a range of reasons. We can throw up if we have an upset stomach, if we ingest something we shouldn’t and if we feel anxious, dizzy or nervous.

So, this is why it is so surprising to us that horses do not have that natural reflex that we do. So, why is this the case, and why can’t horses throw up?

Why Can’t Horses Throw Up?

Horses cannot throw up simply because their bodies have evolved that way. In the wild, horses would need to run in order to escape predators, and when they run, the intestines move and hit the stomach.

If this happened to another animal, then this would typically trigger a vomiting reflex, but obviously, horses run often, so a sensitivity to vomiting would not benefit them or keep them alive if being chased by a predator. 

In addition to this, horses do not regurgitate their food, and so they do not need the ability to vomit in order to survive.

They are also very picky eaters, and only graze on pasture land, making it rare that they come into contact with toxic products that they would need to throw up. 

As a horse swallows its food, it goes down the esophagus and into the stomach. Inside of the horse is an esophageal sphincter muscle.

This muscle will become relaxed when a horse is eating, so that food can enter the stomach.

Due to the fact that this muscle is so strong in a horse, and the positioning of the stomach, there is no way that the valve can open backwards and allow food to come back up.

What this means is that their bodies are also designed so that food can only go downwards, rather than upwards. Horses have muscles in their stomachs that make it impossible for the valve to open in order for vomit to come up and out of the body. 

Horses may sometimes appear to vomit, but this is mostly a case of the horse choking, and the food or substance coming back up from the esophagus.

In a similar way, it may appear that a horse is vomiting, but they may regurgitate when incredibly unwell, as the muscles can loosen and food can ooze from the mouth. Whilst it looks like vomiting, it is not physically possible for a horse to vomit.

Can Horses Throw Up?

The Problem With Not Being Able To Throw Up

Despite the fact that horses have evolved to not need to throw up, as an equine lover, you should be aware of some of the dangers that not being able to throw up pose.

For instance, throwing up is our bodies’ natural reaction to toxicity. We vomit in order to get foreign bodies out, or to get rid of bugs and bacteria in our internal systems. 

As a horse cannot do this, anything toxic or causing discomfort and stress inside of your horse cannot be forced out, and so your horse may have to deal with intestinal pain and discomfort until it passes.

This means that horses may suffer from indigestion and stomach pain from time to time. 

In addition, if your horse ingests something toxic, then you need to contact a veterinarian immediately for help, as your horse will not be able to get it out itself naturally. 

Horses can also be in extreme pain due to overeating, as they cannot throw up the excess food in order to feel better. This is why horses who are prone to eating too much need constant monitoring and a controlled diet. 

Another thing to think about is the choking hazard that this poses. Throwing up is a way of removing something lodged in the throat, and horses cannot do this, so they can be prone to choking if they eat something quickly or ingest something accidentally. 

What Happens If My Horse Throws Up?

A horse may vomit in extreme cases of illness, in which the stomach may become severely distended, which can put pressure on the valve and eradicate it.

This, then could cause the horse to vomit, however this is highly unlikely as the stomach distension would have to be really severe in order for this to happen. 

This could also happen to a horse if food or gas causes stomach pressure which becomes too much and there is an infection in the lining of the abdomen, which is usually fatal for horses. 

Therefore, if you do think that your horse has vomited, then it is vital that you take it or call a veterinarian for immediate treatment, as it is incredibly dangerous for a horse to be vomiting, and this is typically caused by extreme illnesses and poor health. 

If you are ever concerned about your horse’s health, or you think that they may be suffering from digestion problems or intestinal problems, then speak to a veterinarian or licensed equine nutritionist for guidance and help. 


To summarize, if you’ve heard that horses can’t throw up, it is actually true! Horses are physically unable to vomit, as they are not designed that way or evolved that way.

Horses have a digestive system that allows them to constantly digest their food throughout the day. 

They also need to be able to run from predators at any point, where the internal organs such as the stomach and intestines would move about.

If they were prone to vomiting, then running at any given moment would cause extreme vomiting, and they would not be able to escape predators. Therefore, horses have adapted so that they do not need to vomit.

If you think that your horse is vomiting, then it is essential that you seek medical help immediately as this is unnatural for a horse, and could be a sign of a serious medical issue that needs urgent attention.

Catherine McDowl
Latest posts by Catherine McDowl (see all)