The American Horse council says more than 170,000 horses are unwanted in the US. It is no wonder that horse sales seem to feature more and more horses or that the number of horses “released” to the range keeps increasing.
Nor is it anything to wonder about that there has been a big increase in the population of malnourished horses. Good Samaritans adopt or shelter some of the more fortunate of these horses, but the problem here is that most of these Samaritans are not really aware of how to bring malnourished horses back to good health.
Are you a good Samaritan for horses? If so, here’s some advice for you: the last thing you do is “stuff” an undernourished horse in the hope he will get plump again. Leading an undernourished horse to a mountain of food is almost surely going to prove counter-productive because the potency of the horse’s digestive process will have been weakened. It is far better that you stick to these 3 steps.
Step 1: Get to the root
Malnourished horses will most probably have developed health complications, and your first step should to identify and treat any such issues. Typically, these issues include:
• teeth that must be floated immediately
• parasites and worms to be eliminated
• energy loss
• injury and/ or stress and pain.
The top three issues are easy to ascertain and treat, but things are not going to be so easy with the fourth issue. It is very possible that stress or pain has brought about ulcers or upset digestion. The horse may have lost more weight because of this. The digestive processes of horses in this condition can be eased and slowly brought back to normal with SUCCEED, Stomach Soother or KAM UF (Ulcer Formula).
You address each issue in order of logic and priority. For example, floating should be done immediately with a horse suffering from bad or broken teeth, otherwise the horse is going to have problems masticating feed.
Step 2: Feeding the skinny horse
After you have begun treatment of the more pressing issues, you start feeding the horse according to a plan. The diet should be nourishing, but quantities should be limited at the beginning. Care should be taken to ensure proper digestion. There is a mistaken belief that skinny horses must be fed tons of rich feed that is high in fat. Horses that have become skinny because of food deprivation will also have developed faulty digestive tracts. They must be nursed back to health slowly.
It is better to stick to a diet plan that envisages frequent meals of smaller quantity. This will enable the horse to digest the food and recover its digestive powers. If energy levels are low, slowly build up to a pound and a half of pelleted feed or grain for every 100 pounds of horse weight. Additional benefit can be obtained by adding a bit of oil or rice bran. If the horse shies away from grain, you can try alfalfa, which is eminently suitable for weight gain in finicky eaters or horses with ulcers.
In case the horse seems to have reasonably normal energy levels, you should focus on more hay and less grain in the diet. Again, vegetable oil or rice bran will facilitate weight gain. Another very good food for weight gain is soaked pulp of beet.
Step 3: Supplements
Once you have arrived at the ideal basic diet, you must work on supplements that will bolster the horse’s digestive processes. Enzymes are great at helping the horse extract the maximum nutrition from his feed. Digestion is eased with probiotics, which also heal the gut and strengthen the immune system. Simplexity Health’s acidophilus and bifidus have excellent probiotic content, as do Conklin’s Fastrack, Equilite/Arenus’s PreProbiotics and ABC’s Pro-Bi.
Eleviv from XanGo is a highly effective herbal supplement for horses suffering from stress or trauma. It helps restore the horse’s nervous system to normalcy. Simplexity Health’s blue-green algae, Omega Sun, provides high levels of nutrition for horses without adding to nervous energy.
To wrap up, you should also think about digestion-boosting herbs like slippery elm, aloe vera or marshmallow root.
Nursing an undernourished horse
Getting back an undernourished horse to the pink of health is not going to be a matter of a few days. The process is bound to be take time, and the more the complications present, the more the time that will be taken. If you approach the matter the right way, by addressing the health issues before the nutrition issues, you can achieve wonders with skinny horses.