New to Draft & Considering Rescue - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 12-29-2009, 11:23 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Dec 2009
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New to Draft & Considering Rescue

Hi All,

I joined today and have been reading through all the draft threads... most are very informative and encouraging.

I grew up with Morgan horses and QH's, but haven't had a horse in 10 years. I've been thinking of buying a horse, and mentioned an interest in getting a draft or draft x to a friend of mine. She called me up last week and asked me if I would be interested in adopting an underweight draft horse for "free" (if you can call an underweight draft horse free... ha!). He is a blue roan *probably* Percheron that's 4 or 5 years old and about 17.2 hh. His current owner has had him "a year or 2", since he was 3, when he bought him from a girl who had got him as a PMU foal. Apparently he was just about as skinny then as he is now. So he has been underweight for most of his life, I'm guessing. He was eating grass hay until recently when someone convinced the owner to at least put him onto alfalfa (he gets 2 flakes of alfalfa 2x per day, and he is stalled).

Question 1: I'm trying to figure out what would be best to feed him to put weight on, and how much it's going to cost to let him be on free choice forage and give him the nutrition he needs. I've been reading up on EPSM diets, but have found 7+ versions and don't know which one would be best for him (based on his age, history, that he's on alfalfa now, etc). It's a bit confusing, actually, to figure out the best diet and transition strategy. Any advice, informed thoughts, or info about similar experiences would be appreciated! Oil vs High Fat feed (and if oil, what type), grass vs alfalfa, beet pulp or no beet pulp... these are all things that it seems like the more I read about the more confused I am. I want to do my math first to make sure I can afford to give him the care I know he desperately needs and deserves.

Question 2: Also, he is green broke and his (huge, manly) owner has ridden him sporadically. I'm wondering how long it will take to get enough weight on him to safely start working him and put 30 days+ of riding on him. Any educated guestimates on how long it will take to safely put his weight and muscle back on? I figured that at first I would just be doing ground work with him and getting to know him.

Question 3: Should I expect any long-term issues from his rough start to life and lack of proper nutrition, or is he young enough to rebound and recover from this completely?

I've gone down to spend time with him, feed him carrots, and clean his stall several times, and I've already gotten pretty attached to him. He seems to be a big sweet heart, and although I haven't had a halter on him or had him out of his stall yet he does seem to be pretty respectful and trusting. Tomorrow morning I'll be able to get more information on him from the barn manager and get him out to handle him.

I'm attaching a picture to give anyone who has experience with underweight draft horse rehab an idea of his current condition. I'm guessing that he is about 100-200 pounds underweight, but I'm not really experienced with horses this big. His skin and coat aren't great and he has a few bumps and scabs, but he seems to be in okay health other than the weight and muscle mass issues. He's been kept current on deworming and his feet don't seem to be too bad. In this case a "pre-purchase" vet exam seems to be a moot point, as his condition is fairly obvious.

Thanks for reading my very long post and for any experienced advice, insights, etc! I've rescued and rehabed animals my whole life - I've always had a soft-spot for an animal in need and we have 4 adopted dogs lounging in our house as I type this - but I like to do my homework first and be sure that I can provide a life long loving home with proper care, attention, nutrition, love, and dignity!

Many Thanks!

Last edited by sherasta; 12-31-2009 at 01:55 AM.
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post #2 of 7 Old 12-30-2009, 02:04 AM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Riverside, CA
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Ahhh, the poor thing! How awful that someone could leave him in that condition :( I would imagine he's a good 3-400 lbs. underweight as draft horses have amazing bulk in their neck, shoulders and rearend.

My gelding, now 5 is a previous PMU colt. He's about 18 hds, weighs close to a ton. He does very well on a pure grass hay diet, just lots of it. He eats about 7 large flakes a day, plus I feed Purina Strategy for horses on grass hay and he is in super condition. I've tried to avoid alfalfa partly due to the EPSM issue and also because in California we have way too much calcium in our alfalfa. It is the best feed to put on weight quickly though. Just my opinion, but I would give him as much hay as he'll eat (not pure alfalfa of course) 24/7. I'd also worm him. As long as he's young and basically healthy, he should put on weight quickly.

I would hold off on working him for now as he needs all the calories he can get to put back on weight and muscle.

He could be stunted from malnutrition but he's already tall! We have a pony who was abused at some point in his life and now 2 yrs. later, he is so much happier, affectionate. He still is very wary of the vet, farrier or anyone carrying a stick, etc.

One of the PMU ranches in Canada has a stallion named Blue Boy, Percheron, 17.2, could be this guy's daddy!

Riverside, CA
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post #3 of 7 Old 12-30-2009, 02:06 AM
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Aww Poor man!
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post #4 of 7 Old 12-30-2009, 03:30 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Dana for the thoughts and info...
I am also worried about him eating straight alfalfa, as we're in Northern California. If I do adopt him, I'm thinking I'll do a mix of grass and alfalfa until he puts on enough weight to eat straight grass hay. I'll have to look into the Purina Strategy - is it high fat? Do you do other supplementation at all? Maybe I've overwhelmed myself for no reason, and he won't be that hard to put (and keep) weight on after all.

I did a quick image search for Blue Boy/ PMU stallion and I would believe that he's the sire from his build, color, and face. He also looks to be a lighter build draft stallion (Perch X TB) so maybe this guy will have a more narrow build as well.
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post #5 of 7 Old 12-30-2009, 08:38 AM
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Wow! I hope you can help him, he looks like he would be absolutely beautiful once he gets weight. I didn't even know people could starve drafts, they seem to eat everything in sight! Hehehe.
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post #6 of 7 Old 12-30-2009, 10:01 AM
Join Date: Sep 2009
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Both my draft geldings (half brothers) were what I consider underweight when I bought them. The previous owner didn't think so but I just don't like seeing ribs--especially on a draft. We decided to feed a version of Dr. Beth Valentine's draft diet and started them on soaked alfalfa cubes, beet pulp without molasses & vegetable/coconut oil plus all the grass hay they want. The FeedXL program has really helped me make sure that we were feeding enough and had all the nutrients covered. One gelding picked up weight really well and one didn't. Ended up adding some Purina Wellsolve L/S and we are finally (2 months later) starting to see some difference in the second gelding.

When you get to take him out & handle him, definitely check his teeth & feet. Fingers crossed that he picks his feet up easily because that can be a real pain. I love the color on your boy. I'm saying "your boy" because I think you've already been bitten by the draft bug!!!!!!
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post #7 of 7 Old 12-31-2009, 06:10 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Riverside, CA
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I used to give a vitamin/mineral supplement before I started using the Strategy feed. It's supposed to be a complete feed, has rice bran, beet pulp and goodies like that in it. Purina has another feed called Ultium that is very good for drafts, higher in fats but no one carries it in my area.

I did the oil supplementation for a while but it was messy and my gelding has never shown any signs of EPSM so I quit. I'm trying to simplify my feeding routine to the basics. I think many times drafts get thin just because people don't realize the amount of hay/feed required. Cody doesn't seem to need many more calories than my light horses but he sure can put away the grass hay!

I didn't start out with my gelding underweight but feeding him isn't complicated at this point.

Riverside, CA
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