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Thinking of Adopting a 30yo Belgian Draft Mare....

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Ok so I will try to make this short and sweet. I have never owned a horse. In NYC there aren't many horses around aside from Carriage horses and Police horses. I moved to rural Maine about 2 years ago, and even then, never dreamed of buying/adopting/fostering a horse. Actually, I thought that I was afraid of horses. But that is neither here nor there. A few days ago I read an article about a group of giant draft horses that were surrendered to MSPCA and they gave a link to petfinder. Petfinder... darn them. So I click the link and of course I found none of these giant horses, so I searched for draft horses think I'd find them just so I could see just how big "giant" was.

None of those horses have listings on petfinder yet as they are still being vetted. Lucky me. BUT I saw a posting for a 30 year old belgian draft mare who was surrendered when she was no longer useful on her working farm. She was a work horse her entire life, plowing, hay, lumber, but when she started getting arthritis in her hind legs she wasn't pulling her weight and her owner gave the rescue the choice of take her, or she will go to a horse auction for slaughter. Don't even get me started on how sad that makes me.

Anyway, I saw how sad and empty this horse looked. I know nothing about horses, but I think she is missing her purpose in life. She is in a pasture pen ALL day long with limited interaction as her foster has other animals to attend to. Needless to say I knew I needed to find a way to make this work. I don't have the space/barn at home to house her here. I have found a local facility about 5 miles away from home that is willing to board here despite her age. She would have her own 12x12 stall in a heated barn on a padded floor with a 120x100 pasture right at the door. There are no other horses in that barn at this time, so she would be all by herself.

The rescue has been open and honest about her arthritis, and has told me she requires bute before each farrier service. I also plan on talking to the vet when he comes out for the first visit (if I am approved) to see if starting her on some supplements would help any. They have told me that she could have a year, or maybe 5 if I am extremely lucky. I basically just want to give her a comfortable spot to spend her retirement (i have no plans on riding her) where she can get lots of love, and get a little spoiled.

Is there anyone out there that can give me some ideas on what I can look forward to with a 30 year old horse? I know I need to have the vet check her teeth, see when the last time they were floated was, to check her for cushings, and check the condition of hooves. Do horses have hooves, or feet? I guess I need
to do some more googling...

Anyway, any info or help that you guys can provide is greatly appreciated!
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I think it is incredibly commendable that you want to adopt a horse. However, I personally think you should do a lot more research and be a bit more educated about horses before jumping into the pool. Especially with elderly horses that are going to have a lot of problems, I believe it's better to have some knowledge and experience with them before taking one on, even if you aren't going to ride.

I'm not sure why they're keeping this poor girl going, she must be constantly in pain carrying around her bulk with arthritis, but that's their own decision. And as comfortable as that barn sounds to us humans, being without any other horses will be incredibly lonely for her - horses are herd animals that feel most 'at home' with other horses, or at least other animals to hang out with.

Best of luck, whatever your decision, but like I said, I would take the time to learn more about horses and even visit a barn or two to get familiar with being around them. Even if you decide you never want to ride a horse, you should still be comfortable being around and handling them. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for the quick answer. I spent most of today at a local barn, and will be going back tomorrow. I am not sure if the horse is in pain or not, however that is something I'd think a vet would tell you?

Luckily, the facility where I would be boarding is run by a draft horse lover. Although there is a pasture directly in front of the stall, there are several other herd pastures that she could go into as well.

I am waiting for detailed info about the horses health from the rescue that currently has her, and have asked a few questions about her health and if they are even certain about her age, since 30 is, from my understanding, pretty old for a belgian draft. I'd love to give her a great life for whatever time she has left. But at the same time, I wouldn't want her to be in pain or suffering... I really hope the vet would let somebody know if that was the case.
 

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I imagine she has to be in pain if she's needing bute for a farrier visit. But yes, definitely get her completely checked out by a vet! 30 years is old for any horse and with a draft horse that has led a hard working life, her joints have to ache something fierce, I imagine. Would the facility be doing day-to-day care of the mare or would you be responsible for going out every day and doing the feeding/cleaning/etc?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Full board, they clean stalls, feed 3x per day, hay and grain, and they have turn out and access to pasture 24/7 if needed. They had a "free roaming" horse, Ricky who was like the barn greeter who apparently gives kisses. It was quite cute.

They have heated stalls, heated water and fans to help with the flies. They also hold for the farrier and will apply any fly spray/blankets etc. I guess I will just see what the vet says before I go any further. thanks for all the help
 

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I, too, think that your intentions are commendable, but you know what they say about the road to hell, don't you? I would really urge you to educate yourself about what makes a horse's life worth living rather than looking at a pretty farm and saying, "I could spend some time here!"

At the very least she needs an assessment about her ability to perform her activities of daily living, which is basically moving around on pasture grazing and having interactions with other horses, but that don't see her being bullied. No matter how pretty the farm is, it's still some kind of prison. The best farms are white-color prisons with minimum security or even halfway houses, the worst are federal maximum security lock-ups with 23h-a-day isolation cells. Anyway...I'm digressing.

If she's a bit creaky with arthritis, and she just needs to move a bit to find relief, that'd be fine. If every move hurts, she might be better of in the Eternal Grazing Grounds. If she is accustomed to being surrounded by a herd but now that won't be the case anymore, she will not be better off on that farm.

If you don't have a minimum amount of horse health knowledge and need to call the vet every time something seems "off", you may soon tire of the checks you'll write. She may have very special dietary needs (in terms of her entire digestive tract from chewing to being able to process food and absorb nutrients) that you are not aware of.

To say it quite harshly: Your love alone won't keep her alive, it won't even keep her healthy. Talk to at least a few people familiar with the issues facing senior horses. If you capture it, you're responsible for it - you want to know the extend of your responsibilities before taking them on, I would think.
 

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Thank you for considering an older companion horse for your horse. They are passed by far too often. This poor girl was dumped through no fault of her own.

Having worked in rescue for many, many years please take what they say with caution, especially about her health. She may very well be in a lot of pain and not have a good quality of life but there are some in rescue who think they can pull off miracles and will say that she can be managed when really she should probably be euthanized rather than walk around in immense pain all day. No matter what the rescue says have the barn owner who is willing to board her recommend a good draft horse veterinarian to you to do their own exam of the horse before you commit (I would not use the same vet the rescue uses). I also know of some not-so-nice rescues who will say and do anything to get an animal such as this off of their hands, even if it means lying to the potential adopter.

As Mewlie said, make sure you are doing your research before you are ready to commit. Adopting a horse is not the same as adopting a dog or cat (although those should be taken just as seriously) and she may come with some issues that you may not have the skills to handle. I would make sure that the barn owner where you are planning on boarding her understands very well that you are a complete novice when it comes to horse care and handling and that they are with you every step of the way to help guide you and make sure that both you and the horse are safe, happy, and healthy. Spend time here reading through the forums and read as many articles as you can, specifically related to rescue horses, draft horses, and senior horses. Read up on groundwork and handling skills and watch videos; ask around and start taking lessons even if you don't plan on riding. I know a lot of instructors will gladly give groundwork and horse care lessons.

The horse may or may not do well alone; it really depends on the horse. Some horses do fine alone, others need another horse. Some make friends with a barn cat or a miniature donkey. So take that into account if you are planning to adopt her as well; you may need to adopt or buy something else to keep her company as well.

Nobody here wants to discourage you from helping a horse, but we also all know the time and effort it takes to take care of one properly, let alone a senior horse in pain. Just make sure you are well educated before you go through with it and make sure you thoroughly read through the adoption contract from the rescue. There may be a clause in there about a trial period with the horse and if you find her to be too much you are free to return her to the rescue. Otherwise you may be stuck with a horse that is too much for you to handle both physically, mentally, and financially and I can tell you now that I don't know too many people who would be willing to buy this poor girl, so your only option at that point would be to send her to rescue or humane euthanasia.

Rescuing any animal is tough, but it is also very rewarding. There is huge risk involved but if you are willing to do the legwork and have the resources (knowledge, finances, and mentors to help guide you) then this mare will have found a good home. Good luck to you and her! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you. The lady who runs the boarding facility has been very helpful in assisting me to find a few choices for local vets, as well as recommending a few farriers. I have a few friends who have had horses who have given me a general list of things to ask about, however with there being so many unknowns about her past it is going to be very difficult for me to get everything correct.

I know she has been around horses before, however, they are also seniors, so I am not sure how she would fare in a herd with horses a third of her age.

I am going back down next weekend to trot her around to see how she does walking in the pasture, getting into a stall, onto a trailer, etc. I do know she is still eating hay with some grain so her teeth cannot be THAT bad. I am going to keep doing my research, talking to the vet etc. My goal is to make sure she is happy and healthy. If she has no real quality of life, is in pain, etc, then this adoption may not be for me. I am willing to write as many checks as I need to in order to help her stay happy and healthy for as long as possible but I wouldn't want to keep her alive just for me. if that makes any sense.
 

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Wow...you have a very generous heart.
They say the larger the horse the sweeter the personality.
That said...if you know nothing about horses, go to the foster place and spend time with this horse their. Learn, ask question and if you want to donate $ dedicated for this animal do so.
So, at her age, which is advanced she is going to have issues besides arthritis I would think in the near future.
To start with if you take her on..."adopt her" she and all her problems are now yours.
You can't sell her no matter the financial situation you could ever find yourself in and not every rescue although they say they will take them back will have space and they can tell you you must just hang in there and wait....
So, in realistic everyday care issues and things...
Not every farrier will handle a draft horse, period. You also don't pay regular pricing but probably double at least.
Some drafts require special stocks made as they are not all sweet and balance their weight on their legs but lean on the farriers back...that is a no-no for a average horse forget a draft who weighs in at near 2,000 pounds.
Not all vets do drafts either so make sure who ever you "think" is going to be your vet knows this is a real draft....
As she gets older and her health deteriorates, she will need special feed at large amounts and that is not something any boarding barn is supplying, not happening. So add a very large monthly expense...
She will need medication to maintain a "kept-in-check" pain from arthritis...
She may also need other medications as drafts are known to have special issues especially as they age.

Sadly she was dumped when the usefulness of the animal became reduced...she couldn't pay her way so get rid of "it"....
The true work horses are for a job and many owners just do not get attached. :-(
And when you can no longer keep her comfortable and want to euthanize you have to get permission from the rescue to have the deed performed by a vet. It can be denied...don't ask me why they would choose to prolong a pain-ridden existence, but actually this rescue is already doing exactly that. :-?

If you go ahead with the adoption....
Spend the time to lavish attention and love on the horse...
Understand though that a working horse as she was, may not or does not know what this is and may not be very friendly or responsive to your kind gestures...
Some owners treat the horse as a commodity, not a animal. A means to make a $$, nothing more.

So, in the end the decision is yours.
But really realize that this can be a animal that weighs 2000 pounds.
She may not like people, may be nasty because she hurts. She could be a pussy-cat...all her huge size.
If you take her on it is you who does her care of grooming, tending feet, taking for walks for exercise...it all falls on you.
She is a very, very big horse in all honesty to learn on...
She may be the best teacher and she could be your worst nightmare....

As for how she will be stabled...
Not all horses need a companion or other horse for company but most do do better so being separated in a sole occupant barn as she will be may not be great for her..she could pine from loneliness.
She needs a larger than average stall honestly, larger than a 12x12 box...probably a 16x16 so she could move around and she will need stronger fences, higher too than regular horses do...these are all things that make drafts, true gentle giants harder to find boarding accommodations for.
Because you found a barn that said bring her, make sure they really have facilities to take care of her and the knowledge to take care of a senior draft first.

I would strongly endorse and support you get some experience in how to care, groom, watch for pain or sickness issues as it is a great responsibility to own a horse...owning one and taking one on who is known to have issues and being "aged" is added stress to you and to your pocketbook honestly.
Please understand clearly before jumping in the financial responsibility you undertake is greater than that of a regular saddle horse in everything horse.
It is greatly rewarding but also heartbreaking when you put your soul and gut into everything and lose the animal in a month...and that could happen, and so can she lives for another 10 years...quite a commitment and no way to know what that time under your care is going to be like.
Enter this with eyes wide open to the financial aspect, your personal time and effort needed and your emotional upheaval when the worst happens.
I encourage you to first go learn more than basics of care and safe handling practices so you stay safe and healthy as you will now have a large animal dependent upon you for much of its care.
:runninghorse2:.....
jmo...
 

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1) the "giant" Percherons and one Perch X recently surrendered to the NEVINS farm in Boston are about 19h tall. They are BIG. To answer you first question.

2) Caring for elderly draft horses is a labor of love. They are big, can eat quite a bit and are not always easy on their surroundings.

Draft horses are fun to look at, but not so easy to care for. And as they age, their size make farrier work, veterinary work and other thing just a tad more of a challenge. Horses are BIG prey animals, and they don't always think before they act.

At some point, YOU, not the vet, and not the boarding facility, have to make the decision when she is not having fun on this earth anymore.

She may make her feelings obvious on this point, but she may not. Being a beginner owner, you would be a big disadvantage. You could be taken advantage by many people in these circumstances.

I recommend that you volunteer at the rescue rather than adopt for a few years. Take riding lessons. Learn about horses for a few years. Learn how to take care of them, and what is involved. Read every book out there on caring for them so you can go in with your eyes wide open.
 

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DON'T DO IT! My x wife started a retirement home for old horses. The harsh reality is this horse will die! Could be 6 weeks, or 6 years. If you do make this bad decision, ask the care facility where you can bury her, buy a good shovel, and start digging. This horse will take a HUGE hole! Moving a dead horse is no easy task. There's no way to get one in a horse trailer. It takes a backhoe to load it, a dump truck, and then there is the hole. Expect at least $1,000 to $2,000. Leave this horse where it is!
 

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Well, I see you have a lot to consider with all the advice given. It's a major decision and deserves a lot of serious thought, that's for sure.
The boarding facility sounds nice...probably above average. I'd say she needs a large stall and ample turnout to help with the arthritis. Movement beats standing in a confined space. Having a horse at a facility is probably better starting out than taking one home where it will be alone and with a person who has no horse experience. Just know that you will probably get plenty of free advice from other boarders, and much of it could be conflicting considering many people with a half hour's worth of experience often consider themselves to be experts. Stay out of barn politics!
You have heard a lot of reasons not to do this but if she is of good disposition and health (vet check) and you are willing to accept the risks, well, I wish you many happy hours with this girl. It will be a learning experience.
Keep us posted.
 

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There is a whole lot to think about and to learn and this would be a huge endeavor to take on. That being said, it is not impossible. If you have the right network of horse friends, the right barn, the right vets, and farriers then it's doable. I think that if something is tugging on you then it's worth at least investigating.
 

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The idea sounds lovely in theory but in practice - I'm not at all convinced that its a good idea.
Other's have already pointed out the downsides so I'm really just being repetitive, but if that's what it takes to make you sit down and think really hard then so be it
The size alone could be the downfall - even small horses can be intimidating for someone not experienced in dealing with them. If you want a large draft horse then spend some time with them before committing to anything.
You then have to factor in the extra cost of feeding a large horse compared to a smaller one
I don't regard the arthritis as a major issue unless its severe so you should get a vet check done because if the horse needs more than a dose of bute for the farrier - needs daily pain meds then the cost is going to rocket
When horses get into their 30's their teeth start to wear and that could mean a specialist feeding regime = more expense
You then need to have an agreement up front as to who is responsible for the costs of euthanasia and disposal if the quality of the horse's life become so impaired by age that its the kindest thing to do - or it could just be disposal if it dies naturally. Not all properties are able to bury a horse on site and cremation is expensive.
If you want to help rescue horse's then why not find a good facility where you can go and spend time with them and donate towards their upkeep? You'd be helping them and getting experience that could be valuable to you if you do decide to proceed with an adoption later on
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you all for your input. It has been a very difficult decision for us. We did submit an adoption application for the 30-year-old Belgian draft mare. There was just something about her that kept tugging at our heart strings and we know that we needed to do as much as we could to help save her and let her live out her days in peace. We know going into this that she may only be with us a day or week, or several years. That is ok with us. Our goal is to make sure she is happy, healthy and comfortable for as long as possible. And if we end up adopting her, and there becomes a day when she is no longer comfortable and cannot live her life normally without pain, then we will do what we need to do.

Anyway, we have researched senior horse care, draft horse care, senior draft horse care, general horse care. The woman who owns the boarding facility is very down to earth, very honest and has been incredibly helpful so far. She had us out at her place all weekend, she introduced us to horses of all sizes (including her own draft) and horses of all abilities. We spent the weekend being showed how to care for horses of all sizes, and she taught us some horse basics.

She has given us an equine veterinary reference that we plan to use to take a look at the horse if we go through with the adoption. She has also given us her farriers' schedule as he makes trips out to her farm monthly. I also had the uncomfortable talk about what to do with a 2000lb deceased horse. She gave me the name and number of the 2 companies who will come and pick them up for you, as it is illegal to bury them/compost them in this state.

I am aware of how expensive this can be. I am aware of how much veterinary care, farrier service, boarding, extra grain, hay, bute, beet pulp, supplements, fly spray, etc. can be. My husband and I have no children, our rescue pets are our life and we will spend any amount of money on them that is necessary to keep them happy and healthy.

Anyway, again, I thank you all for your input and advice. We will see how this goes and we will take it step by step.
 

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@twixy79. Well alrighty then:). You do seem to have your head on straight and your husband sounds to be on board 110%.

Don't be a stranger to this forum. There's a lot of qualified help in general horse care and quite a few experienced Draft owners on here:)

I'm glad I don't live in Maine if don't allow horse burial on ones property:(

I do know there are places that will cremate a horse and send the ashes back to the owner. If that is done in Maine, it might be something to think about:)

FEIW, I do understand where you're coming from. I once scraped a Border Terrier off the road and took it to the vet. Three days and $180 later, the vet couldn't save it. I brought it home to at least give it a decent burial. That's how I've ended up with nine dogs (some are mine) in my Pet Sematary:). All the cats and horses are mine:)

Wishing you the very best and pleas update us on how the adoption goes:)
 

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Agree - you seem to be doing your research and have found what sounds to be a good boarding facility.
We aren't allowed to bury a horse on our CT property because of proximity to wetlands, river and our well so had to use a cremation service. I will say that they were excellent but it is expensive - you're looking at around $1000.
I think you should consider other available adoption horses too. This horse is old and if she's happy, well cared for and settled in her current location moving her could be very traumatic and a lot of stress to put on a very senior horse
 

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It seems you've done all you can to be prepared nd are willing to give this girl a happy place to live out her days. If you end up adopting her (I assume it still hangs on the outcome of the vet check etc) please consider starting a journal in the journal section here so we can follow along! And thank you for your generosity in thinking about adopting her!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thank you, everyone, for all of the assistance so far. We are still waiting on OUR vet to have a thorough once over because being involved in animal (dog/cat) rescue for the last 10 years, I have learned not to trust other people's veterinarians. We have located a second draft horse rescue (a bit farther from our home) that has several seniors looking for retirement homes. So if something falls through with the 30-year-old mare, we will not give up. I have been waiting for about a week for the mares foster mom to let me know about her temperament, daily medical regimen/requirements and anything important that I would need to know. It has been frustrating to be in limbo for so long, and I have a feeling that the Foster may just want to keep her put due to her age. Being involved in dog rescue, specifically special needs cases, I understand that sometimes removing senior or special needs animals from their foster could be disastrous, even if it is for a forever family. I respect the foster for wanting to do what's best for the animal if that is the case.

If we do not hear anything back about the mare by this weekend, we are going to take a road trip to the other rescue on Saturday to visit to see first hand what the condition of their horses are. So far, this new rescue has been much more responsive to my questions and they seem to have several seniors that would be a good match. One is a 17-year-old 15.5h belgian gelding with the most beautiful dirty blonde mane and tail (I am jealous of his hair, not afraid to admit it) I do know he is from NY (same home state as I) but I don't know if he was a working horse or carriage horse. There is also a 19yo belgian mare, with no sight in her left eye. She is also still considerably underweight but they tell me its been something they have been working on....


I am really excited to see how things unfold for us, and am looking forward to giving a senior draft horse a retirement full of love, trail walks (next to me since I dont ride) and lots of spoiling!
 
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