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Caring for a Nutritionally Depleted Rescue Horse
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Caring for a Nutritionally Depleted Rescue Horse

A horse may become nutritionally depleted for many reasons. Elderly horses often will not eat properly. Diseases may deplete a horse of proper nutrition. An abused horse may have some broken bones or injuries. Some horses have been starved and neglected by owners and caretakers. A lack of carbohydrates, fat or protein intake may lead to health issues in a horse.

A starved state is considered a body condition score of two or less. It is difficult for a horse to recover from prolonged malnutrition.

4 Tips to Identify a Nutritionally Depleted Horse:

  1. Coat:  The coat may lose its’ shine and there may be some bald spots on the horse’s coat. The skin may appear flaky, similar to eczema or psoriasis.  Sores may develop on the skin.
  2. Hooves:  Hooves may appear cracked or broken. The wall of the hoof will be soft to the touch. The horse may have difficulty walking on a hard surface, such as asphalt.
  3. Protruding Bones:  As there will be a lack of fat layer underneath the skin, protruding bones will be seen. Hip, ribs and shoulder bones may be very prominent.
  4. Tail and Mane:  The tail and mane may appear faded from the sun and lack of nutrition. The mane and tail hair will be fragile and break easily.

6 Care Tactics for a Nutritionally Depleted Horse:

  1. Feed:  Feed should be introduced slowly under the guidance of a veterinarian. A horse that is nutritionally depleted loses the ability to produce enzymes and maintain health bacteria. If food is introduced too quickly, the horse’s digestive system may go into a state of shock. Initially, offer the horse only water, salt and small amounts of high quality grass or legume hay for at least 10 days. Grain can be added later as directed by the veterinarian.
  2. Injuries and Broken Bones:  Injuries and broken bones may require the attention of a veterinarian. The veterinarian may x-ray the area and set broken bones. Injuries may require cleaning, stitches and antibiotics.
  3. Parasites:  The horse should be checked by a veterinarian for parasites. If parasites are found, the veterinarian will start a treatment program to rid the horse of parasites.
  4. Psychological Issues:  The horse may appear withdrawn and easily frightened. The horse could become aggressive towards humans, especially if the horse was physically abused.
  5. Respiratory Issues:  Listen for sounds of labored breathing from the horse. Malnourished horses are often susceptible to respiratory issues and will require treatment by a veterinarian.
  6. Supplements: The veterinarian will want to place the horse on probiotics to improve digestive tract health. Vitamins A and C will help boost the horse’s immunity, vitamin D to strengthen bones, E to support muscle integrity and some veterinarians like to add K and B.


Photo is courtesy of Abused Horse as downloaded by Animals, Abused and Abandoned at Flickr’s Creative Commons.

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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