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!