Ensuring all equine in South Carolina live in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment.
Lexington South Carolina 803-729-3692
Abused horses need T.L.C. aplenty
By Martin Adams, Ph.D.
Remarkably, horses can lose 30 percent or more of their body weight and still survive, but horses in an abused, starved condition have very little muscle mass remaining and are very weak. They need attention and lots of TLC to restore trust, and a sound nutrition program to get them back into proper body condition.
Start by providing the horse with good quality hay, water and a mineral/vitamin supplement, like EquiMin Horse Mineral in block or granular form. Feed good-quality grass hay, which is less likely to cause digestive upset than alfalfa or clover hay. Provide it in plenty-1.5 to two percent of the horse's body weight daily (12-16 pounds for an 800-pound horse), but hold the grain for two weeks.
|For older horses (20 years or more) with poor teeth, the ability to chew long-stemmed hay may be pretty compromised. Feed the elders a feed developed for geriatric horses, such as Triple Crown Senior and Triple Crown Chopped Grass Forage, gradually increasing the amount of feed to one percent of body weight and chopped forage to a half-percent of body weight.|
|The feed and forage may need to be made into a mash if the horse's tooth condition is very poor. |
Start grain feeding slowly. Re-member the horse has not been fed grain for a long time, and its digestive system needs time to adjust. Start out by feeding only one pound of grain twice daily. Gradually increase the amount of grain by adding one pound per day until feeding one half to one percent of the horse's body weight daily. Feeding this amount of grain and plenty of hay will allow for the gradual weight gain you're after.
Bringing a starved horse to normal body condition will take three to six months, depending on the severity of weight loss. Keep increasing the amount of hay and grain as the horse's weight increases, feeding one half to one percent of body weight in grain and 1.5 percent as good quality hay.
Once the horse has regained some strength and has become familiar with its surroundings, check with your veterinarian about health care. Your vet may advise you to only use a half-dose of dewormer the first time you treat the horse for internal parasites. A massive die-off of parasites in the horse triggered by a full dose of dewormer could trigger a bout of colic. A dental checkup is also in order, as this has likely not been done for a long time. Your veterinarian may also discover other health problems that need attention.
It's also important to contact your farrier about hoof care, as the horse's hooves have probably been neglected, as well.
Marty Adams, Ph. D., is publication director of The Mane Points.