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I saved a little horse from slaughter two weeks ago and he was in very poor condition. He is on full pasture and I grain him everyday using black oil seeds, a sweet mixture, I soak alfalfa cubes and beet pulp pellets. I also bought him some over the counter weight builder.

Has anyone had success in getting their muscles back? I want to use him as a trail horse but he is so thin and fragile it's hard to imagine him being very strong. Feeding advice?

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We started out with a good quality alfalfa and hay, then added senior feed and slowly started hand walks, then hand walks on hills, then once he had his muscles back began to train for under saddle....

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I only just got my first horse last December, so I'm no expert, but I can tell you what worked for me. My mare is 18 and had been out of work a year and a half when I got her. Once I got her into a regular riding schedule, she dropped weight quickly and had no muscle at all. I put her on Smartpak's Muscle Mass Supplement and Purina Amplify for weight gain in addition to Triple Crown Senior and Hay.

This is her in Jan 2016.

This is her in May of 2016.

She is no longer on the muscle mass supplement, but I've had to keep her on the Amplify as she has trouble holding the weight with our 5 day a week riding schedule. I'm sure more knowledgeable members will chime in and may have better suggestions, but this is what worked for us. :)
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Congratulations on your new horse and rescue....

First off....
Pictures of the horse currently would help....
Your horse was and still is sick...starvation & neglect is a illness that can destroy a body.
Your horse was starving so slow down on what you are throwing at him.
It takes time for the insides to acclimate, time for them to heal from such much to soon is not good either.
Once the horse has gained back weight, not a skeleton and has had time for their insides to be replenished, healing... then will you be able to really make the difference in muscle tone and amount of muscle mass.
Right now your horses organs need to heal from the neglect...they come first and foremost in the process.
Organs are the last to shut down and the first to be fed nutrients...

So, once you have added close to a ??? pounds, probably closer to ??? pounds that is when the muscle starts to also come back, slowly.
You should already be seeing vast improvement in appearances but don't rush the transformation....

A neglected/starved horse many can rehab on their own to me scores out in the 1.5 - maybe a 2 category and will need more than a few weeks to start to gain muscle...
The Henneke Body Condition Scoring System - Habitat For Horses
Several months may be needed for the outside improvement but the inside takes more time and is unseen as it heals
, maybe 6 - 12 months time is not unheard of.
Once you have weight on the body, the horse still needs protein and the supporting minerals and vitamins that go with it to rebuild muscle.
It can be done, but again...slow down!
Till the horse is scoring a solid 3 to a weak 4 on the scale I would stay off the back. When you do start to ride, not long, not hard or you will lose all you are working to gain easily....he is still healing.
Remember that for the horse to gain an once it needs to take in more calories than it uses being a horse.
If you put demands of riding and using those calories to soon to ride they deplete the fat stores of what you are feeding in and trying to make gains of...
Take the horse for walks, let him graze and do some bonding, ground work with him for now.

My rescue was a little thinner than
Add being a hard keeper, around 16 years of age and it took me 9 months to get him "eh"...12 months to be proud of him standing in my pasture.
We trail rode him, nothing strenuous some and rode in our pasture occasionally...
Now, he went out with us for a 2 1/2 hour walking trail ride the other day and was fabulous. Never took a misstep and he has not lost an once!
I think we have finally "healed" his insides and now he can hold his own...:wink:
He is now pretty, not a sad casualty called a horse.

So my advice....
First off make sure his teeth are good, no issues.
Have a fecal done and worm him accordingly and do that several times being careful to not kill off a massive worm load at once could kill the horse, yes!
Free choice grazing of your pasture is great.....
I would dump the sweet mixture and put him on a senior feed. A good manufacturer of it and introduce the feed to him slowly building him in amount to what he should weigh not what he is currently weighing...
{Warning...It costs money to rehab a rescue}
If you feed senior feed it is made differently than any other feed and absorbing nutrients for any horse is easier, they gain and thrive on it usually.
Alfalfa cubes, beet pulp and the seeds are all added fats, proteins and nutrients the horse needs to heal and are also great.
Make sure you offer salt blocks, and vitamin and minerals in proper amounts and take into consideration your pasture and what your horse is getting from the grass and ground it grows in and create a balance of nutrients he needs to return to health.
There are many of us who have success stories of rescues returning to health and a vibrant life.
Just remember it takes time to return from a illness, in this case starvation.
Slow down, enjoy the transformation you are seeing in front of your eyes...and enjoy your new companion and friend. Take pictures to document the journey and so you can also see differences every week being fed and loved makes :wink:

Some reading material so you can better understand what has happened and what now needs to happen...the first one is excellent. Second adds more insight to what happened possibly and how to overcome it safely.
Refeeding Malnourished Horses | Equinews

Good luck...

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Whenever you get a starving horse, the first step should be a complete physical from a vet that includes pulling blood and checking for compromised organs----if the body is starving, it will pull stored energy from anyplace, including vital organs. UC-Davis, considered one of the best on feeding starving horses, recommends alfalfa since it's nutrient dense and the high calcium levels act like Tums for humans if the horse has ulcers. Move the horse up from many small meals per day to free choice hay. KISS works for feeding horses----rather than feed all those extras, buy a good quality Senior Feed and slowly, over 2 to 3 weeks, move the horse up to the amount per the feed tag for his ideal weight, split into at least 3 feedings.

When a starving horse is recovering, the body first builds fat around the vital organs so it's very hard to judge if he is gaining without using scales (My hubby hollered at me to get off the scales when we weighed our starving rescue 1 month post rescue---we couldn't see the weight gain, but he sure had gained almost what I weigh!) Once the horse is the proper weight, it can take another year of riding and working the horse correctly to build condition, top line, and muscling.

Enjoy the adventure of giving a horse a better future!

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I took in a starved 2 year old. The first year he pretty much only gained fat and the second year he started working on really building muscle. I did not put him on a forced exercise regimen but we have large hilly pastures that did the job for me. Today you would never guess he ever missed a meal in his life.
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