Evaluating skinny horses
I'm in the process of looking at horses now, and I came across one whose ad sounded interesting. When I asked for photos, I was surprised to see that the horse was quite skinny (ribs obvious, hip protruding, minimal muscling) which made me curious about whether or not it's worth going to see a horse in that condition; how would you evaluate whether it's a good match for you or not?
Here's kind of what I'm talking about... this is NOT the horse I'm talking about, and is only slightly worse than the photo that was sent to me. (This is a photo of a rescue horse at intake)
What I'm wondering is- would a horse like this be too skinny to test ride in good conscience? Would a horse like this change in personality as he got to healthier weight?
Whatever horse I end up getting will be my first horse, but I'm boarding at a facility with great people who are very knowledgeable and supportive. Would I be better off just steering clear of a horse like this, even if he seems as nice as the seller describes and is just skinny because they've fallen on hard times and are unable to afford enough feed (or maybe don't know how to keep weight on a hard keeper)?
I ask both in a general sense and as I'm trying to decide if it's worth going to see this particular horse in person. For reference, the seller says he has excellent ground manners, settles in to new places easily, has shown training level dressage and schools 1st and some 2nd level movements, but has been out of consistent for over a year. He's an 8 year old Oldenburg/TB cross sired by Art Deco (I assume he's probably got some other breed(s) in him, too, as he's only 15.1hh)
It's going to be very hard to tell if the horse is indeed a good match because however bad they look in pictures, they look a lot worse in person and you will probably not be able to remain objective. And YES, the horse's personality could change radically when he started getting groceries in him.
And about your hard keeper question. I just went and repo'd a horse who'd been starved and observed that the other horses on the property were in almost as sorry a state as the one I was taking. The owner told me that, "Those boys are round and roly poly, very fit and happy.". Ok, well, they WERE better off than my mare who was a BSC 1 but I wouldn't have given them more than a 3 and that was being generous, more like a 2 to 2.5. She tried to tell me that my mare was driving everyone off their feed and was the only one being fed because of it. REALLY? I've had her home for about 6 weeks now and she's gained 100 lbs with normal feeding. Don't buy whatever BS story they're telling you about the feed, just know if you take a horse in that condition you are going to spend a LOT of money getting him back into shape.
Personally? I would not even go see the horse because of the amount of baggage he's carrying. Not my idea of the kind of first horse a person should get invested in.
Here's what she looks like TODAY, I wouldn't even take a pic when I first went and got her.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous or ignorant people who try to manage a hot horse by cutting back feed. That's my first suspicion when I see a skinny horse for sale.
Buying one underweight and taking it home and feeding it up is a calculated risk; you may well end up with more horse than you planned on.
my mare was literally starved in a field for 10+ months before I got a hold of her. It costs a lot of money to put that weight back on and get that horse back in shape, but if that's something you are willing to do (provided you have the time, money, trainers to help) it can be worth it. My mare is more horse now than she was 6 months ago that's for sure. will she be worth it? more than likely.
I owned a half brother to Art Deco - TB mum. Bred to be a jumper, but used for dressage. They do keep a bit on the hard side, and carry their weight badly - even in good flesh the one I had would be cresty and have a belly - but the hips would be pointy.
In my experience (I have a friend that has a lot of these horses as well) is that they are an extremely sensitive horse that, with poor handling, may appear to be hot and flighty. So starving to make them easier to handle may make sense. Ours had no issue packing around a 3 year old infront of me, bareback and was our go to "beginners" horse. Just don't kick him hahaha.
Judging from the Art Deco lines alone, I would go see him. They are in my experience very sweet, well tempered horses but are very sensitive.
Am I seeing a large open wound on his rear leg?
I recently took on one in worse condition. I've had her a month and half now. She's gained a bit of weight and I'm seeing very definite personality changes. Nothing horrid but definitely not the dead quiet horse I first saw. I couldn't even imagine how the previous owner thought she was ok to ride. 100 lbs heavier and I still can't imagine putting a saddle on her.
I have considered slipping on bareback for ride around the field but she has withers the size of the alps and I'm kinda short and chubby so I'll wait till spring.
Personally I think I'd go look just to see if I needed to be calling the authorities of some sort. It could be the owner has fallen on hard times and needs to sell or...you just don't know.
ok not the horse but one in similar shape. Still too skinny to ride.
OKay, Duffy was in pretty much the same condition when I got her, but I'd say more muscle wastage.
Did I ride her? Yes. Her saddle was on and I didn't see her ribs. I still went back the next day and rode her in front of my trainer. Why? Because I don't have the experience to say yay or nay for seeing a horse on the ground. And you know what? She tried her hardest for me.
She spent a week just eating, eating and eating. Three weeks light lunge work. Now, she is a different horse weight wise.
Attitude change... my trainer said something interesting when I first bought her 'Her teeth are fine, she has no worms, so why is she skinny- has she been made skinny to make her controlable' So we have had a few battles, but nothing out of the ordinary (thanks to the reassurance from guys here) for a young horse.
First picture is 4 weeks after I bought her. Not one word of a lie, pretty much all her fur came out, not so she was naked, but it just had no health. Next one is first morning, compared to 4 weeks later, and last picture is at around 5 and a half months.
I have now had Duffy 6 months. Its a long process. Would I recommend you do it? No- I wouldn't do it again. Do I like the Art Deco lines, and would you persuade me to see it? Most likely. See how you feel, and look at others. Nice lines, but a LOT of work lies ahead.
I just got my first horse 3 months ago and he looked almost like this, ribs sticking out could see hips etc - I called him my supermodel. Agree with everyone about not underestimating the amount of work and $$ involved in putting weight back on. 3 months in and he's almost at weight, now we are looking at muscling him up. We've only been lunging and doing light trotting work during this time.
My guy's personality reality hasn't changed for the worse, if anything he's now become a calmer happier horse. He loves his food, that my barn has a good routine and feeds 4x a day and now he gets lots of turnout. Was a horrible weaver when I went out to trial him.. doesn't do that anymore.
At the end of the day this will all be worth it for me, but in hindsight I can see that it was a bit of a gamble.
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