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Advice for recovery from starvation/future growth potential?
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Tinar
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 Posted: Sat Mar 16th, 2013 12:28 am
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Hello,

I am in the process of adopting a 3 yo TB colt, not registered, who is recovering from the affects of prolonged malnourishment. Two of his pasture mates died after being given to a rescue group, and a third was very touch and go.

He likely started with a condition index of 1.5 to 2 (as the ones who died where at 1).

He has been under the care of the rescue group for the past two months and is putting on weight slowly and eating well.

Right now he is about 14-14.2 hands tall, likely stunted for his age.

Questions that I have been looking for answers to:

1. Advice for feeding and supplements to help him recover his weight over the next few months. Are there particular supplements or vitamin regimines that might be helpful?

2. Are there things we can do to help him catch up a bit on height? Articles on human starvation I have been reading seem to indicate that if growth plates are not closed, then those areas of the body can exhibit "catch-up" growth and come closer to the normal length. I was reading dr Deb's article on growth plate formation, but was uncertain where the majority of height formation derives from in a horse and given his age, if we could expect any "catch-up" growth in his hieght.

3. Also, in humans, sometimes they will administer small amounts of hGH which can help in cases of short stature due to different medical conditions. I realize this is currently a drug of abuse in racing, and I am ignorant of the legality,so please accept my apologies in advance for any offense, but is there any precendent for adminstering GH to malnorished horses to help them come closer to thier full size in a therapuetic capacity? I was uncertain if it's affects are primarily muscle or if they also impact bone growth and even if it would be advisable, given the instability in his current metabolic state due to the prolonged starvation.

3. My first thought would be to spend the next six months just working on ground training, manners, grooming, getting lots to eat, lunging and starting some driving in hand. Then maybe very late this year begin getting him accustomed to a saddle and very limited riding. In the spring I would send him to a professional trainer to learn fundementals for a few months. Does this seem like good timing for him given his current state?

:) He is so sweet and very clever and he looks a bit funny right now as his head is still really big relative to the rest of him and his neck is still very skinny and ewey. His legs also appear to go is sixteen different directions. Even if he stays little I will still have a great deal of fun riding him, even if my feet dangle under his belly, and I have even had thoughts of teaching him to drive. He has the cutest little lips and this very, very long TB face and he is always getting into mischied!

Any advice would be wonderful!!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Mar 16th, 2013 04:57 am
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Tinar, all of the questions you've asked here would better be asked in consultation with your veterinarian and/or with the feed and nutrition specialist at your local University or agricultural extension office.

What I want to respond to instead is what is implied by your plan. I believe that you're signing up here for what can only come to certain disappointments. The very first thing that I think needs to happen is for you to step back and disengage from your "mommy" emotions, and ask yourself what you really want out of any horse you might purchase.

Because PURCHASE -- as in buy, spend money, commit finances -- is what you are proposing to do. You are not "rescuing" anything. The colt is an animal, one of thousands and thousands of less-than-perfect horses who are slaughtered, worldwide, every single day.

And even with that number removed, there still remain thousands of BETTER horses -- I mean a lot better than the colt you describe -- who could use a good home. I don't really care how cute you think he is, Tinar; you'll find that all horses are cute and personable in their own way. "The horse is in the eye of the beholder" as the old saying goes. You have fallen in love and what I'm going to try to do here is try to get you to step back and see how much that is fueling your fantasies and thereby warping your judgement.

So the first point I'm making to you, Tinar, is that whether you go get a horse from a breeder, or whether you buy it at a public auction, or whether you get it from an outfit that brands itself a "horse rescue" -- you are still BUYING THE HORSE. No matter where they come from, horses are expensive.

Given that you are going to make an EQUAL expenditure, then, no matter where you buy the horse -- because, Tinar, the breeder who is willing to sell you a 3YO for $2 or $3 thousand, or the auction where you go pay the same amount for an unbroke colt or filly, or the rescue which gives you the horse for "cost of keep" but then you have to spend the difference on vet bills, feeds, supplements and so forth that this very disadvantaged colt is going to have to have -- you are going to wind up spending THE SAME OR MORE on the so-called "rescue" -- which is really a purchase.

In fact, Tinar, on this colt you are going to wind up spending many times more. Because unless you've got lots of experience starting youngstock and giving them their initial training, you are going to have to pay somebody else to do that, and that's going to run you at least a grand. Whereas, in my area and I'll bet also wherever it is you happen to live, you can go to the reputable horse dealer, the riding stable with the experienced teacher running it, or the old man or old lady who have been in the horse business for years, and for three or four thousand bucks they will sell you an older, totally broke horse that you are going to have MORE safe fun riding than you ever will on this colt.

Because this colt you're proposing to buy, Tinar, isn't ever going to be sound. Have you considered that if its legs are skinny and crooked, and the horse has been stunted by early malnutrition, that its vertebrae -- which you cannot see, but which ARE the parts you'll be saddling and sitting on -- are equally weak in their formation and substance? In the trade, the colt you describe is called a 'squib'. It isn't his fault, but there is absolutely zero you can do to amend it at this point. It is not only not going to be possible to get him to grow much taller, Tinar, but any attempt on your part to push growth will do nothing but harm him. The situation is, in short,  "WYSIWYG" and you must accept that and step back from it and take mental and emotional perspective and make your decision from that viewpoint.

So I'm asking you again, Tinar -- think this through very carefully, what it is that YOU really are after in purchasing a horse. Is what you really want to be stuck nursing a semi-sound, semi-broke, semi-healthy squib and calling that "having fun riding"? Or do you want to have a real horse to ride? If it's the former -- then you're the "mommy-nurse" type and that's your business of course -- go to it, and I hope you get all the satisfaction in the world with mixing the feed and the supplements and dinking around with the special saddling and the expensive hoof maintenance and whatnot, and yet never having a safe, sound, reliable mount. A lot of the mommy-nurse types like this situation, because deep down, they never really wanted to go for a ride anyway, what with its implicit athletic demands and its demands for a certain amount of personal courage.

But if instead what you want is really the latter -- a sound horse that will take you thousands of miles in the arena and down the trail, happily, safely, and sound for years of companionable use -- then you need to go anywhere BUT a "horse rescue". Go find the old man or old woman down the end of the dirt road; they are your very best counsellors and they will be your very best help, and there's somebody like that everywhere horses are bred or kept. -- Dr. Deb

 

Tinar
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 Posted: Sat Mar 16th, 2013 05:21 pm
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Hello Dr. Deb,

Thank you for taking the time to write out a pragmatic, but thoughtful response. I very much appreciate the advice and the good intent behind it.

You make good points about financial aspects-he is an incredibly expensive free horse. I understand this very well and I am lucky enough to be old and well employed, so I have a significant amount of money I can spend. I have spent a significant part of my life working very hard to have enough money to blow on whatever ridiculous hobby I decide to engage in, and to spend the money in a way that I find rewarding. However your points about the financial aspects of rescue animals are extremely valid and well taken.

When a teen I spent about four years working on a farm with arabs, so feel comfortable in my understanding of how to work with young stock, but again money isn’t really an issue, as I wanted to work with a professional as I enjoy learning. Thus I am not as concerned regarding ending up with a “semi-broke” horse.

Regarding the “old man” down the lane-that was where I got my first horse many years ago. She was completely lame due to bad hocks. However that mare taught me horse common sense and that my horse is often smarter than me and I should listen to her. The second visit, to a breeder this time, got my a very pretty arab mare. She was sound but had a case of PSTD around being clipped while twitched, and would strike out at whoever was holding her. She taught me how to deal with a sensitive high strung animal and how to be very aware of the subtle signs of horse stress and be quick on my feet. Another trip to a breeder/trainer-I ended up with another arab mare with crappy feet and one hell of an attitude. The breeder had spent so much time fattening her up for a show that she foundered soon after we bought her. She was crazy athletic and fun as hell to ride, but she taught me that I don’t want a horse who is extremely dominant. Another trainer-another little horse who broke out hives and reached a max height of 14 hands and stupid to boot. She taught me more things I don’t want in a horse. Each of these horses taught me a great deal but I must say I don’t trust people selling horses in the slightest as there is ALWAYS a reason they are getting rid of the horse. At least with a rescue, I know exactly what sort of screwed up little horse I am signing up for.

So sure, I can go drop 10K on a really nice horse, and even considered doing so-until I asked myself-“why do I want a horse?” Exactly the question you asked. What do I want to do with a horse? At first it was dressage or jumping, etc, maybe endurance riding, but when I thought more upon it, it really struck me that there is a massive amount of vanity in much of the competitive horse world. I find that distasteful. What did I REALLY enjoy most about having a horse as a kid? As a kid I had the best afternoons ever walking around on my gimpy old mare, giving her baths and braiding her tail. I loved to hear her neigh at me at feeding time. As I have looked at different horses over the last few months, I find that what I want to do, directly relates to what each horse I am considering is CAPABLE OF doing. For this little guy, that is part of what I am trying to understand.


Now to address the “mommy” comment. This will be a bit of a divergence as you got a bit personal here. I fit into your “mommy” category and I am PROUD to say I am. I realize you use the term as a slur and an insult. People think about the world in different ways and they innately, biologically, psychologically find happiness in different ways. We do not fit in one box. THAT IS OKAY. If you assume that your dog or horse doesn’t see the world the way you do, and it is stupid to assume they do, why would you assume another humans do?

You strike me as an INTJ-they are pretty well known for becoming extreme experts in a very specialized area and then helping others understand (even if kicking and screaming) how to do things the “right way”. Prone to pontification, stubbornness and profound, yet simplistic values, they can be extraordinarily knowledgeable and rise to the top of whatever they pursue. They are pragmatic, realistic and yet also possess an innate appreciation of fluidity and grace in movement.

I am an ENFP. I see the world in an extremely different way. I find satisfaction in different things. I feel enjoyment for different reasons. That’s okay and that’s part of how humans are biologically designed. My innate biology drives me to help those in great need and then find and incredible sense of satisfaction in caring for them. It is intrinsically rewarding to help the hopeless. To see something in pain and not be able to help induces stress and angst and to help another induces a great deal of happiness. I find the greatest sense of happiness in taking something that seems hopeless and instead seeing the potential within it and helping nurture it to be something more. My motives will be primarily value based, rational, but not logical. You can call it what you like, but logically, you cant argue biology. I cant help the 100K horses that get sold into slaughter each year, but if I can help one horse, at least I tried. Even if this horse ends up as a lead line pet, it will still bring me enjoyment to have gotten him.

I suspect ENFPs abound in the horse world-thus your slur of “Mommy”. A protip-perhaps if you focus on how to teach the mommies to avoid the mistakes they are prone to making with horses, rather than insulting them, you will come closer to accomplishing your goals. Talk about the flaws in their actions, not the innate flaws within themselves to avoid a nasty, nonproductive defensive response.

Personal courage? Grrrr, them’s fighting words. 

Now back to the colt. I am a biophysicist by training and based on the scientific lit I have been reading, I suspect a local vet can help me refeed the horse, but I also suspect they will be guessing a bit in areas where I hoped you would be able to provide expert guidance on bone structure-thus the post here. When you follow the outcomes of many starved horses, if not at the level of organ failure, most seem to come back okay, in fact they can recover to a remarkable condition and make good pleasure horses. I made fun of his legs, but to be honest he is so unbalanced right now, given his lack of muscle tone, that I am taking a wait and see perspective.

This site was interesting in that the author showed examples of confirmation before and after recovery from poor condition-the differences can be pretty striking and there is value in holding judgment until the animal has recovered:

http://www.missourifoxtrottersatoz.com/distinguishing%20conformational%20flaws%20from%20poor%20posture.htm

At any rate, thanks for your words of wisdom and I recognize you are trying to give me good advice, which I am too stubborn and set in my direction to heed. If it gives you any condolences, I suspect in addition to “Stanley the Squib” (Thanks for the name), I am also going to lease a really athletic appendix at the same barn. So I get to ride and be a mommy! Happy times all around

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Mar 16th, 2013 08:12 pm
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Tinar, you've mis-read my answer regarding the "mommy-nurse" type of person. If that's who you are, then, as I said, by all means indulge yourself. There is no implied insult for you to 'take personally'. If you'd rather nurse than ride, then indeed you've found in this colt an ideal candidate to receive your ministrations.

Quite true it is that I myself am not inclined to spend my time that way. Unlike you, I certainly don't have ten grand to drop on any project -- my horse must be able to do the work I ask of him, or I can't afford to keep him. This does not by any means imply that I don't love my horse or have some "mommy" emotions -- a perfectly normal amount, in fact -- of my own. It's just that they are not what is running the show. My belief is, also, that they should not be, because all horses need and benefit from having a real job, real work to look forward to.

And yes, Tinar, it DOES take some courage to ride. It takes that every single time. If you do ride, then you know this. And if you're my age -- well past 50 -- then you also know that the older you get, the more courage it takes, because falls, accidents, and hard spooks are more dangerous and more potentially damaging than they were when we were young.

This is where having expert knowledge of how to start a young horse comes in, because it is in this process that you -- by foresight and foreplanning -- install the attitude in the young horse that you are going to need him to have to be on your side, to keep you safe, for the rest of his life. This is WAY more than 'manners'.

I close with a story about that. As readers here know, about four months ago a disk in my back ruptured very severely. In mid-December I underwent surgery to repair it and, exactly eight weeks later in mid-February -- thanks to kind Providence, the skill of the surgeon, and the blessing of generally good health otherwise -- I was back in the saddle. My gelding Oliver and I have been taking it gradually -- he got out of shape as much as I did during the two-month hiatus.

I find as a sequel to the surgery that I'm not quite as springy as before; perhaps this will build back over time, but it hasn't quite yet. I have previously told the story in this Forum of how Oliver will stand absolutely stock-still for me at the mounting block (it's been many years since I could mount from the ground -- this is thanks to my bad knees, not my back). Now, however, the mounting block somehow doesn't seem to be quite tall enough! so that I have to 'leap' much more to get my right leg over.

Now, I was getting on Ollie the other day, and I stepped in the left stirrup and went to sort of spring up or leap up as one must do in order to get the right leg over -- only I didn't spring quite high enough and got hung up on the cantle. So there I am up there, kind of flailing around, trying to get my left elbow across the crest of his neck in order to get myself over far enough to get my right leg unhooked. Feeling this, do you know what Ollie did? Another horse might have taken advantage and whirled or jumped forward -- a real wreck. But no. What Ollie did was look back there, see the difficulty, and then he raised his neck and kind of shook, like he was shaking water off, only he was shaking me ON. His lifting his neck gave my elbow the purchase it needed. His action was like the action of somebody shifting a heavy backpack sort of sideways to a more comfortable position.

So then when I righted myself and was able to sit up properly in the saddle, what did he do then? Just continued to stand there, waiting for suggestion or direction from me.

This is the attitude that every older rider needs to find a way to install in their horse. It's also the attitude that every horse ridden by a child must have. People in-between can, perhaps, take more chances and even benefit from that. But for me, there is no other choice than to have my horse so totally confident in me, and so very fond of me, that he will do nothing but work all the time to see how he could be of help to me.

This is the difference, then, between mommy-driven horsemanship and real horsemanship: that the mommy-driven approach produces horses who do nothing but work all the time to see how their mommy could be of help to THEM.

So my hope is that you have the kind of goal in terms of obedience and attitude that I benefit from in Oliver -- along with so much skill that you can produce it in the young horses you propose to bring along. If in all honesty you don't, then you can read other threads here and find me advising people to go see Buck or Harry, or others whom we recommend, from which these skills can be learned. -- Dr. Deb

 


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