I liked your post so much, Barry. I'd like to add some things I've picked up here and there if it helps anybody. I've learned there is no one size fits all protocol, and not all vets have enough experience with rescued animals because their client base simply doesn't offer up the experience, and things can take a wrong turn with the best of intentions and professionals sometimes. A really good vet is priceless.
Vaccinating: I found depending on how compromised the horse is, vaccinating may be best withheld if possible until the horse is healthier; deworming protocol same thing, depending upon the exam. It isn't rocket science, but yet it's not a piece of cake either, is it?
I don't know if anyone here is familiar with Bach's Rescue Remedy (some people think it's airy-fairy) but I've used it for traumas, and even some gas and stress colics along with some acupressure work, and it's pulled a lot of them out without the need for banamine. I'd say colic's one of the #1 concerns with the newbie rescue. I'm also a very big fan of microbials, that gut balance is so so critical.
Caring for a neglected, emaciated horse if a full time job both physically and mentally. 4 weeks ago I brought an old gelding home who was a body score of maybe a 1. We did our best but after 3 weeks his heart and soul were strong but he just didn't have the strength to go on. It takes a lot out of a person caring for these animals but the rewards are great no matter how long (or short) they are with you.
There is a lot of great info in this post. Thankyou for sharing.
So glad to see others take in a horse in need of rehab once in a while. Some people look at me like I'm crazy when I bring home a bag of bones every couple of years. I just feel that if the budget allows it and I have enough free time, why not? The total after 10+ years is 4 rebounded, 1 unable to recover. So sad, but too much major organ damage. I just put the 'unable to recover' guy down a week ago. It sure was tough to admit there was only one more kind thing I could do for him, but reading these other stories and thinking about the others I've successfully rehabbed has made me feel alot better!
UC Davis has a starved horse feeding program that is hard to follow(your heart will hate the restrictions) but works well. We rescued a starved 4 year old stallion who looked like a 2 year old gelding(both his testicles had ascended into the groin above the sheath). We had documentation of his condition and all the horses on the property are in good health and great shape, but still placed him in a box stall with solid walls around the turnout where he could not be viewed. He has impeccable breeding and has recovered but may never reach his full potential as he was neglected and starved from 18 months to 4 years of age.
The UC Davis refeeding protocol is a nice article and I think it lends itself well as a jumpoff guide, but one thing that worries me a bit is that the article seems to have become a popular "one size fits all" one page protocol. Someone with good intentions but not knowing could, for instance, misinterpret their description of how much alfalfa to feed by weight and frequency after a two-week period, stating it's then safe after 10-14 days to offer free choice hay; they don't say alfalfa but it is implied, and that could be harmful if someone following what is written in that article then lays out the alfalfa buffet and winds up with a foundered horse
Something I've done - again, depending on the individual horse - is to provide small amounts of grass hay too, the gut is waking up and remembering and wants to get busy, and I've found that small amounts of each provide more activity for the gut, and the horse is happier to have a little grass hay to nibble between alfalfa feedings which of course picks up those spirits.
Your stallion looks just great, bless your heart Did his noogies drop?
You are absolutely correct, the program is geared for experienced horse persons. With more than 35 years with horses myself and over 75 collectively as a family, it was a daunting task for us and not one I would recommend a novice/beginner undertake. Too many risks and the possibilty of failure is high. Yes, his "noogies" have returned and he is definitely aware of them now. Fortunately, he is double registered AQHA and PBA, his owners have graciously given me his papers. Not sure he will get to use them even with his really outstanding breeding ( Skeeter Chex X Mojave River Ruby (Peppy San)). The current economic climate makes it unconscionable and irresponsible to contribute to the glut of horses in the market. Too many being neglected, abandoned and slaughtered even the good ones aren't safe. Thank you for your kind words, it is so rewarding when you are successful in restoring one of God's most beautiful creatures to health.
It breaks my heart to see neglected and abused horses. The stable I ride at brings in and rehabilitates rescues for a local charity and there has been some ugly stuff going through. The worst I think I've ever seen is a horse named Pearl. (Warning, graphic picture) She sufferend blunt force trauma to her face but despite all she'd been through, turned out to to be the sweetest mare and was able to find a forever home where she will be loved. I give anyone props who takes on rescues and I've actually decided to be a volunteer at my stable with their rescue foundation come spring once I've finished school for the semester.
My husband and I have 3 horses on our farm that belong to a friend. I haven't paid much attention to them, as the owners always respond that they are ok. Today I went outside to go and feed them some apples, when I realized that the newest of the 3 horses is very emaciated. I told my husband that this can't go on, we need to do something.
So, with that being said, as not an informed horse person, I am trying to figure out where to start to bring this horse's weight up. I am working on other fronts to clear out the land, and get bales of hay myself to support them. But I am desperately seeking suggestions in helping to care for these horses--and possibly get them into better shape--both socially, and physically.
Victoria -- you are entering into a minefield for which sadly you are unprepared.
What you need is some advice from an independent advisor and not just in the matter of what to feed.
A British saying :"fools rush in, where angels fear to tread" comes to mind.
Thinking about your predicament, I think I might approach a local horse rescue organisation who have experience in such scenarios.
Horse care is often as much about what not to do, as to do, even in good faith.
Before proceeding much further, I'd be inclined to ask your 'friend' for permission to proceed and, if you own at least 5 acres of well fenced grassland, then I would seek to take legal ownership of the animals, recorded by a written agreement. But take care, people become agitated when they are accused of neglecting pets.
But as a start, read through this thread - it is full of the advice you might need as and when you have a legal right to go ahead.
carlbergv.. get the legal ownership . deworm. seperate if possible, hay start with a flake 4 inches morning noon nite
sr feed would be okay. if the horse is old, its teeth probably need floated.
there is your starting point.
i have taken in lots of malnourished horses and found them good homes and i know some don't always come out of it and have to be put down what people don't understand is horses will use all there fat first and then there muscles go which cause organ damage and they have no antibodies to fight infection so the first thing to do is get it to the vet and he will let you know if it is going to make it but still then its what you are willing to spend on one. I had one come through that because of its starved condition developed liver problems and became sun sensitive and she had to wear a mask all year around and she would loose all her hair during the summer here in louisiana. I did find her a home in tennessee and as far as i know she is 27 years old and still going i got her for free and gave her up for free because of her problems but it takes lots of money and time to get them back and you don't know what you have till it is fat enough to ride but ground working them to build muscle mass back helps, i have placed at least 7 horses into new homes that i keep up with i mainly give them away just so i know they aren't going to slaughter. i guess iam dumb for not asking anything for them but to me they came here free and i send them out free. good luck to all who do this and a hint red cell in there feed help their anemic state, and be careful with founder too.
Feral v Wild
As per Collins Dictionary:
Feral: 1/ animals existing in a ‘wild’ or uncultivated state
2/ savage, brutal
Wild 1/animals living independently of man; not domesticated or tame
5/lacking restraint or control
At weekends I used to regularly ride as an assistant guide for a trail riding centre located in the Brecon Beacons. A group of keen riders, some from cities in the UK and even Europe would ride out on trails over the bracken covered mountains for four hours or so. My regular trusty mount, William, was the best trail horse that I ever discovered in my riding career. A Welsh Section D X Hannoverian, he was strong, sensitive, and fit. He presented as a well schooled horse who would yield to his rider obedience, courage and performance. He was no slouch and neither would he suffer fools.
On one particular outing, a group of trail riders was in the process of negotiating their way around the base of a steep hillside when I espied up on the hillside a small herd of Welsh Section C Ponies. In that part of the country they are released out onto the moorland hillsides so as to fatten up ready for sale as edible meat stock. The small feral herd comprised of four pairs of mares and foals and one obvious stallion. Amongst the mares was one notably lively white/grey pony. She was very obviously the dominant mare Suddenly, whilst I was watching, the stallion split off from the group and cantered down the hillside and directly towards us. Meanwhile the pony mare had moved to the rear of her family group and had started to chivvy them up. She wanted them out of reach of the humans and the domesticated horses.
The small stallion was coming straight for our us and he had adopted a very belligerent posture with teeth bared, ears back and tail raised. Suddenly several of our horses started to show signs of stress and it was very questionable whether the townies who were riding them would have the ability to keep their horses under control and in line. If the line broke, then the chances were that the horses might whirl, bolt and scatter. The little stallion could well have caused havoc. There was a real risk that one or more of the trail riders would come off and that location was no place to be injured from a fall off a horse. We would have had to call in the air ambulance helicopter.
The trek leader managed to take charge of the line of riders from up front. He hustled them up to canter and thereby separated our group from the pony who by now was getting close. It was time to act and I took my crop out of my boot and urged my trusty steed William around and towards the stallion. William did as he was told and with a lot of waving of my free arm and the crop and some loud cries of ’get away’, William and I managed to divert the stallion away from our group. Much to everyone’s relief, no one had fallen off.
Suddenly the stallion looked back and he could then see that his small herd was out of harm‘s way He turned away and cantered back to his ‘family’. No harm had come to anyone and it had all been a good experience for horses and humans.
In that part of the National Park feral/wild ponies were left to fend for themselves for months until later in the season when they were rounded up and shipped off to market. Whereas my trusty gelding William lived a relatively pampered life amongst a group of well schooled trail riding horses - all of which were geldings. Once noticed, any little minor behavioural issues would be quickly schooled out of him. He had a regular daily routine which included two meals a day. He was groomed and inspected for injury regularly. He had shelter and grazed on rich green grass. When you went to catch him, he would stand and would doff his poll to accept the head collar. He would respond readily to a trained rider‘s soft hand. William had made a deal with humans.
I would hope that there is a lot of difference in behaviour patters between my domesticated William and that feral pony stallion. Their instincts will have diverged from the day they are born,. A well looked after riding horse should, through routine and constant care, come to trust we humans, whereas that little stallion has good reason not to.
Horses aren’t stupid,. Some come to knowingly accept which side of their bread is buttered.
Back in November 2009 I started a thread entitled 'Anger and the matter of the carrot or the stick. By the time the viewership fell dormant it had attracted 229 posts and 12,368 viewings. Three and a half years ago the active and regular readership of HF was a little different from that of today.
But the subject of how to treat a horse with the expectation that the horse would come to respond to 'kindly' treatment was discussed in detail. What was written remains valid to this day. The thread starts off with some confrontation because some members held the view that horses are animals -
my view at the time is that they are better described as potential companions to man and as such should be treated kindly.
If we humans give the horse shelter, food, water, grass and routine then with time most horse will come to serve us humans.
A feral/wild/undomesticated horse is indeed in a physical sense very similar to the animal we seek to ride as amateurs but its mentality is very different from that mentality we should have developed in the pet horse.
And I confess I accept that horses have a thinking brain which we riders ignore at our peril. The problem we face from day one of meeting a horse is communication with a different species of animal.
But I also admit that I have never managed to meet closely with what I would classify a feral/wild horse such as a mustang. In the UK all we can meet with
classifiable as 'wild' - is the meat market stock or the neglected and discarded waifs which in most cases have been subjected to abuse by humans.
The emaciated horse presents different problems - as we have already discussed.
We just took in a rescue horse today. He's very underweight and had bad feet. He has a severe case of thrush, needs his teeth floated, and lots of antibiotics and medications to get him healthy again. Reading this makes me feel like we'll be able to get him back on his feet again.
Sun Rider, Take your time You have to earn the trust of your refugee, The animal will be frightened and will be missing what was constant in his life.
Keep your voice low; get him used to your touch; wear the same clothes so as to make your smell recognisable.
Always be with him when the farrier, the vet, the toothman calls. Massage his back. Keep his feet picked out.
Work him in hand off the ground before you go to mount.
Make sure the saddle fits, well enough and is fitted over a thick saddle blanket. Remember his shape will change as he becomes fitter.
Use a mild bit - or maybe better a hackamore.
Establish a daily routine and keep it constant.
And, dare I say, - reward him with tidbits.