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Horse Racing/cantering - snorting sound


QUESTION: hello ma'am. recently i had been to our local racetrack. i have seen a horse and the rider passing by me. it was making a snorting sound while being cantered. may i know whether it is sensing danger or breathing problem?

i have posted a video link of a horse making such kind of sound at canter.


This horse is not sensing danger.  The sound that horse is making may be caused by fatigue or... a possible breathing issue.  It is normal for a horse to make a blowing sound while galloping but this horse maybe blowing a little too loud. It may just be from fatigue as I have know way of knowing by just watching the video how long or at what speed he has been working.  If this level of blowing is of concern to it's trainer then definitely have a veterinarian scope the horse's respiratory tract.

Hope that helps!

Thank you,
Maureen Millen

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: thanks for then answer ma'am. then how can i get to know that my horse is swallowing its tongue(confirming myself that it requires a tongue tie)?

A horse does not actually swallow its tongue, that is just a slang term use in the racing industry.  The tongue bunches up (called billowing) in the back of the horse's throat, usually when stressed.  This can cause the tongue to block the palate (breathing flapper)and restrict the horse's airway.  If your horse has a flapper problem you will notice the horse slowing down during a speed workout or race.

Tongue ties are most commonly used to keep the horse from putting his tongue over the bit and to aid in control. If your horse plays with the bit alot, he is probably in need of a tongue tie.

There is also a physiological reason for using a tongue tie.  It prevents the dorsal displacement of the soft palate (DDSP), what is commonly referred to as a horse "swallowing its tongue" which will obstruct the airway passage.

If a racehorse is running brilliantly thorough the entire race but seems to just quit on the homestretch, that may indicate the horse is "choking"...or swallowing its tongue and be in need of a tongue tie.   However, if a horse is fading in the homestretch there are several other issues that may be going on that are more serious than just needing a tongue tie.

Be sure to rule out bleeding by having your horse scoped at the end of its race. Slowing in the homestretch is a classic sign of a bleeder, although it may be just microscopic bleeding and not obvious by the naked eye.

There is a really good segment about properly using tongue ties in the Trainers Test material.

Another thing to consider when a horse is playing with the bit alot is its teeth.  Be sure the horse has had its wolf teeth removed and there are no retained caps on the molars.

Hope that helps to answer your question.

Kind wishes,

Maureen Millen  

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Maureen Millen


Horse Training, Vet and Medical (layperson level), horse care, racehorse training and conditioning. Holistic Health.


30 years in equine industry, author of The Racehorse Trainers Test (, national award-winning TV producer, equine video producer. I have owned, shown 2 World Champions and a reserve World Champion, had many regional and state champions. Past experience includes: Certified Equine Appraiser, a Bloodstock Agent, Licensed Racehorse Trainer, stud farm manager, training farm manager, equine and canine rescue founder, retail upper management.

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