Battleford sent me a private message asking for constructive advice when taking on a neglected aged horse. My reply was too long for the system - so herewith my reply. Please feel free to chip in with anything I forgot to mention.
Battle, that’s quite a task you have taken on for yourself. Here are a few ideas sent over the Internet but my not having met with the horse. You need to know what you are dealing with. If you can afford a vet, then call one to give the horse a once over - including checking for ulcers and advice about best brand of wormer for local environment.
The feet are very important - so keep the horse off hard or stoney ground until the farrier gives the OK.
Ask him to check for lameness - farriers know as much about legs as they do feet.
Teeth - have an equine dentist check the teeth for wear. Ask for advice on what the horse can eat.
Skeletal - even if the horse is not lame, then ask a horse physio to run their hands down over the spine
Probably you can’t ‘cure’ any ailment but you should know of the horse’s medical problems in order
To assess as and when or if the horse is in pain. As carer that’s your job: to speak for the horse
Ask about local ailments which should be innoculated against.
Don’t allow the horse to over graze. Putting on weight too quickly can induce colic.
Check with local feed merchant for suitable feed supplement to provide balanced diet.
Two small meals a day are better than one big meal.
If you ever need hay - then check for quality as well as price
Don’t confuse body fat with muscle.
Keep a diary.
Measure the horse‘s weight by tape around the barrel.
Take a few photos from all angles to check for progress - especially from the side, the front and the rear.
Watch the horse to ascertain ‘normal’ behaviour
Provide shade against hot sun. If necessary buy coat to protect against UV and flies.
Remove all bots eggs
Provide shelter against wind and rain
Bring into stable against cold and snow.
Check all fencing for loose wires - and remove if possible all barbed wire
You se electric tape energised by a car battery if necessary
Check grass for poisonous weeds eg ragwort & yew ++++++r
Collect dung at least twice a week.
Water Check water and ask yourself whether you would drink a glass of it.
Clean water tank out on a regular basis
No horse should be left alone but take care to introduce your horse to any new companion
If necessary divide up field and allow the horses to meet but insert a barrier - fence , between them until they know each other.
Establish a routine which you can adhere to every day
Groom the horse lightly - every day if possible.
Work Introduce slowly an in-hand work program, horse in training halter..
Simple walk, stop, stand, start, turn right, turn left, back up.
Horse’s head by your head, restrained on a loose lead rope.
Don’t work on the lunge until the horse is working well in hand.
Have lessons on lunging and the purpose thereof.
Buy, beg, borrow, steal a cavesson with rings.
Treats I am a treat fan. Horse feed pellets and pieces of juicy pears, apples and carrots
Keep them in your pocket.. Reward the horse often.
Handling. No whips. No shouting. Whisper. Get close (when you feel safe to do so)
I realize that you may not be able to afford all of what I have suggested. So be humble, plead poverty and beg.
The horse has to come to trust you.
You must be able to ‘speak’ for it.
You must be able to assess and deal with its needs.
Your reward will be a horse, with a shiney coat, rushing to the gate of the field upon your arrival, asking for a treat which the animal knows is in your pocket.
The horse will then bend its head to accept the halter and will walk back to the yard at your shoulder without pulling on the lead rope.
Patience, care, observation and continuity is everything in handling horses. Take your time.
Let us both hope, the horse comes to reward you for your generosity and self sacrifice. Best of luck.
PS Everything I have said applies to a horse which does not shown aggression. An aged aggressive horse
Can present you with a need for a risk assessment by an experienced horse handler. So take care in the early days. An aggressive horse may be in pain and finding out why could be very difficult.
The only thing I would add (which when speaking with a vet should come out) is if the horse is in extremely POOR condition (like a 1-2 on the body scale) you might need to wait to worm and vacinate until you get some weight on the horse and their body can handle that additional stress.
An interesting dilemma presented itself to me today. After writing a post to advise a young woman how to treat with a neglected, discarded and aged horse, I left home and went shopping. Suddenly on the way home I asked myself what would I do were there to be a loose horse grazing upon the front lawn of my house.
The horse would be without a head collar or paperwork, it would merely be doing what comes naturally: namely the animal would be eating grass at one end and expelling it at the other.
Someone - who knows who?- would have decided that they could no longer support the horse for one reason or another and he/she had brought it to me to look after. After all, locally, I am a well known horse lover and it would be known to the perpetrator of the offence that I have a knowledge of horses.
Now in the fields behind my house, horses graze as DIY livery tenants.
The village is located in rural suburbia which is excellent country for horses.
The roads are single tracked country lanes and nearby lies some ancient woodland which makes excellent riding.
I would within a short time have some idea of the nature of the horse, namely its breeding, its age, its condition and its temperament. Exactly what would I then do?
The law states that I should report to the police the unexpected arrival of a horse. A telephone call would no doubt suffice. The police would not be interested They would write a report and records would be kept of the incident on some national data base. But without a doubt I would be left with the horse in my care. What should I do?
We must consider in the equation, that I have a lifelong interest in horses,
Facilities to keep the horse locally are available but at a cost.
My own horse has just died and the funds are available to keep another.
I have the necessary expertise. Would I be prepared to give succour and comfort to an unknown horse, for whom I, as unofficial guardian, should be prepared to guarantee the health and well being of any horse in my charge???
The horse, an un-invited guest, would represent:
An unwelcome cost to my family finances,
An unwelcome demand on my time which had only just been released by the premature death of my own mare.
The creature would become a 24/7 tie and it would not even be legally mine.
The animal would be uninsurable and a potential liability for veterinary costs and livery fees.
Should I rush into the house and grab a halter and lead rope - only to lead the animal bask into the lane and say “ Shooh”???????
Should I get a bucket of water and then go inside the house and phone my neighbour to ask if I can park the horse on her land - for a night or two?
And this conundrum would arise all for a horse I had never met before????
Just how far am I personally prepared to go for a neglected, discarded and perhaps ageing horse?
A similar thing happened to my neighbor--and this is not an isolated case. He came across a very starved horse along the highway that skirts what used to be extensive pineapple fields. There are many gulches, and sometimes horses are simply turned out there to end their days.
Well, he brought the horse home (caught it and led it by car a few miles) and took care of it for several months. He was a nice-looking paint, after all. Then about a year later, a woman driving by recognized it, and claimed him as her own.
There was no proof of her abandoning him, so there was nothing my neighbor could do but give him up. He couldn't afford legal hassles; but he'd spent quite a lot on feed etc. to say nothing of his and his family's affections.
The thing to do around here is call the Humane Society; get it out that the horse exists. If anyone wants to claim the horse, there's a time limit; and they need to be prepared to pay a fine. After that, he's put up for adoption.
Just how far am I personally prepared to go for a neglected, discarded and perhaps ageing horse?
Just donít ask me now, please
WHAT WOULD YOU DO????
Oh I wouldn't be able to turn away.. even if I didn't have the funds to do it I'd find a way. Probably lease out Sky and do all I could for this horse, maybe find him a better forever home since the barn I board at is a little intense for neglect cases.
My family has also been 'dumped upon', thinking to only haul a load of cattle to the market, (my husband was told by the land owner who became ill and quite elderly that EVERYTHING HAD TO GO!!) So by night fall we were the new owners of a very thin old mare. We are BY FAR FROM RICH, but also know that her only other option in that shape would be to put down. So now we are finding ourselves struggling some as not only a horse owner but a rehabilitatior too, as she was about 400lbs underweight when we got her. But we take it all day by day, she is improving and THANKFULLY I very well know a now retired vet who's knowledge has been my savior. He also at one time had over 20 horses that over the years folks had brought to him to be put down for one silly reason or another. So there are others Im sure like us who sometimes find out that our hearts are bigger than our wallets. But it is a much rewarding and learning experience I must say that every animal we have ever owned was a throw away by someone else, and I trully believe that they are the most appreciatiave.