Understanding the structure and function of the equine upper respiratory system are key to knowing what can go wrong with a horse’s breathing. Since respiratory dysfunction is a major cause of poor performance in athletic horses (second only to musculoskeletal disorders), a basic knowledge of the structure and function of the respiratory system, particularly the upper respiratory tract, is important for horse owners.

Some of the most commonly diagnosed upper airway abnormalities include: dorsal displacement of the soft palate, nasopharyngeal collapse, laryngeal hemiplegia and epiglottic entrapment. Performance problems and respiratory noise are common in horses affected with these conditions. Diagnosis, treatment and prognosis vary depending on the exact underlying cause.