People, Horses, and Halitosis

So, I’ve been looking at my old blog and I miss writing “ratified research” type posts. I have found that usually my readers like these. Sharing what I interpret with you helps me organize the material for long term memory and perhaps teaches you something you did not know before! Here we go, and in the future, look out for the “Ratified Research” category tag at the side column for more like these.

Sometimes when I am around a horse I will rub its forehead, scratch its nose, and smell its breath – sometimes it smells mine! The horse raises its nose to my cheek and breathes, flaring its nostrils as though it is trying to smell what I am smelling. I read once that this is a greeting so I will breathe with the horse. You can learn a few things about the horse just from the smell of its breath, the same as with people! In my experience a horse’s breath is an unnamed sweet smell, or of what the horse has just eaten (grain, grass from grazing, peppermint, apples, hay). However, there are times when the smell of the horse’s breath causes me to recoil.

In people, the smell of bad breath can be cause by a variety of things: smelly food (onions, garlic, anchovies, etc), lack of brushing, gingivitis, an ongoing illness, respiratory tract infections, and bacteria sitting on the tongue. Bacteria on the tongue is the most common cause  of halitosis as these munch on food particles and produce gases. Bad breath in horses roots from similar causes, like an abscessed tooth, a tumor, or an advanced lung infection (e.g. pneumonia). The most common of these reasons is from not eating in an extended period of time. You see, when we eat saliva production is stimulated and the bacteria is scrubbed from the tongue. If you approach a domesticated horse that has been grazing in the fields their breath is more likely to smell sweet or “grassy” as the saliva is flushing organisms from their mouth as they graze. That said, what do you think a malnourished horse’s breath would smell like? One that is gaunt in the face with ribs protruding from its sides?

Bad breath can also come with some discharge from the horse’s nose. Most of the time this is not serious and could be attributed to something as simple as allergies. Yes, horses get those too. Like the human body the horse’s body can rectify the more common and minor causes of discharge in a few hours or a few days. However, nasal discharge can also indicate bacterial infections, respiratory infections, nasal lacrimal problems, tumors, blockage of the esophagus, toxic plant effects, and can even indicate choking. A choking horse is a serious matter. Horses cannot regurgitate as humans can – in other words horses cannot vomit. All you can do to help in this case is to call a vet and be prepared – perhaps a few tips on this will help. Keep in mind that any discharge from the horse’s nose does not automatically indicate choking. Discharges can range through some of these:

Each discharge can be caused by something different and indicate different severities. Bleeding from the nostrils, for example, can be cause by anything from excessive workout to a tumor. A horse bleeding from the nose should have an endoscopy to find the root of the problem as that is the only way to treat the horse. Remember, when it comes to medicine symptoms are indications of a root problem. It is like when you see the discoloration and wilting of leaves on an oak. This can be caused by oak wilt, a fungus infection which spread unseen by insects or through the roots of the tree.

If you smell bad breath from or see some discharge on your horse’s nose don’t worry too much, it could be they haven’t eaten in a while, especially if you keep them in stall for a long period of time. However, if your horse’s breath becomes particularly malodorous, or the condition continues, ask your veterinarian to investigate. In any case if there is something happening that you are unsure of or worried about I always found it was best to ask questions – ask lots of questions – before you panic. You could be more capable of handling the problem than you think~


Here’s some updated art centered on horse healing. In fact I’ve been reworking a lot of the presentation for my art so you can enjoy the image focus without a massive watermark distracting you. Click on the picture to follow the link to my art gallery and see more! This picture may be available as a print soon. Keep an eye on my Storenvy shop. You can find a link to all these places on the “About” tab above.

Learning can enrich your understanding and enjoyment of life. I have had the benefit of a few phenomenal teachers in my life and they always encouraged me to keep going, to realize my potential and capacity for knowledge. The best foundation I had when I started to ride horses was a great teacher. The best foundation I had for gaining knowledge was a great teacher. Granted I took it upon myself to search and pursue what I desired to know and the teachers on my path helped me along. Sometimes I catch myself when I falter. Sometimes a mentor helps me climb a cliff here and there.

Until next week my lovelies!


  1. 8 Surprising Causes of Bad Breath
  2. Not-So-Sweet: Why Your Horse’s Breath Stinks
  3. Discussion on Bad Breath
  4. Nasal Discharge
  5. Nose Bleed in Horses (WebMD)

Other Ratified Research Posts:

  1. The Purple Heart
  2. What Colors do Horses See?
  3. Expressing in Your Style
  4. Ponders on Colorful Breeding

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