Thursday, March 12, 2009

Long process, my you-know-what

So it looks like everybody is making excuses for Kenny Price from yesterday, saying that rehabbing a starved horse is a "long process" that takes six months or more. The vet who examined them seems equally clueless, apparently believing that throwing them out on the overgrazed pastures you see in the pictures and throwing some hay at them is adequate care.

What a crock of shit.

I guarantee you, I could have any horse in that field looking normal or close to it in 2 months. And so could many of my readers. Yes, it involves a little more care than throwing them out in a group, but if you are the Animal Control Supervisor, shouldn't your care level be the gold standard?

Here's a pic I'd like to show you all. It's been up here before, but I think some folks in Alabama need to see it again. This is an elderly horse that a friend of mine took in to rehab. The dates are 100% accurate. (Click to see the whole pic if the blog cuts it off for length)

(P.S. For those of you from yesterday that think A.C. officers are evil, she's an A.C. officer. I've had the bad experiences, too, but please try to remember that many people get into this job because they do love animals. Trust me, the person who euthanizes the dumped pet is a hell of a lot more of an animal lover than the phony, crying "oh my god, I love him so much" asshat who dumped him in the shelter because of a new apartment/boyfriend/baby/whatever lame excuse.)

Back on topic - Here's a 16 hand Saddlebred cross.

First picture is April 1st. Second picture, below, is May 3rd. Same year. In ALASKA, where they were still experiencing some subzero temps during that time period. (That's for those of you who think that horses just won't put on weight in severe cold. Yes, they will, but they need a lot more calories to do it.)

So, what would I do differently based upon what I've read about how the Price horses are cared for?

1. Separate them for feeding! Emaciated horses need to get all of their food and some are going to be slower eaters than others.

2. Have they had their teeth floated? If the teeth haven't been done or if they're unsure of the condition, I'd switch them immediately to some kind of quality hay pellets soaked in water. You can use orchard grass, timothy or alfalfa but you want to soak them very well until they are the consistency of oatmeal. Make a meal that a horse can slurp up no matter the condition of his teeth. Then you feed that pretty much free choice - I would do 2 scoops 4 or 5 times a day. I'd be out there early in the AM and last thing before I went to bed with mush for those horses. You do that and I guarantee you, it will not take six months to get results.

If they're sure the teeth are good, then free choice QUALITY hay. That does not mean local grass or whatever the low-end stuff in Alabama is called. Up here, we basically have hay that costs $6-$7 a bale and hay that costs $15-$18 a bale. I wouldn't think of feeding a starved horse the low end stuff. It's not going to do them any good. I've heard a lot of "OMG you can't feed them rich hay!" panic but trust me, unless all the hay you have is emerald green third cut alfalfa, you're not going to somehow kill them with hay that is "too good." I think it's fine to provide some cheap hay as something to nibble on between meals but if you are trying to fatten up a horse, I'd be throwing them 3 flakes twice a day (or two flakes 3x a day if your schedule permits) of something that pains you every time you have to write a check for it. Nobody ever said rescue was going to be a cheap hobby!

3. As to "grain is going to kill them and they're going to get re-feeding syndrome" - Uh, not if you use a little judgment. Stuffing them full of hay pellets and starting out with maybe a quarter scoop of Equine Senior in there and moving up slowly from there is absolutely not going to hurt them or create refeeding syndrome. No, obviously you do not want to start throwing gallons of sweet feed into a starved horse but it's ludicrous to say that you can't or shouldn't grain them at all.

4. I checked the weather in Florence, Alabama. Raining. 43 for a high, 34 for a low. Do those horses have waterproof blankets on? They are shivering off any calories they DO take in if they're out there unprotected. The pictures were taken on a clear day, so I don't know, but it's certainly a good question.

5. If they're not already, I'd put them on a daily dewormer like Strongid C. I'd also put them on probiotics to help them better utilize their food. Since they're not getting grain, I assume none of this is being done either.

These are all pretty simple steps to help a horse regain weight when he's in a debilitated condition. They are tried and true. They will work for you. Sure, there are horses who take a little longer to get looking good - like cribbers. But the only way it takes six months to get a skinny horse looking normal again is if you're doing a half-assed job of it, and if you're a vet and you believe that, you must have gotten your DVM out of a Cracker Jack box!