Caring for a Starving Horse

ArticleHow to -FeedingWednesday 17 March 2010
Tips and guidance on how to provide effective care for a horse suffering from the effects of malnourishment.

When you are confronted with a starving horse, integrative an effective equine nutrition programme to bring the horse back to full health is essential. To learn more about how to care for a starving horse and helpful horse feeds, read this guide.

Starving Horse: Equine Nutrition Tips

•    The rehabilitation of a horse can be a long and challenging process – it’s never easy to quickly nurse a malnourished horse back to health. Time, patience and dedication will be needed to gradually reintroduce a horse to a healthy, balanced diet. It’s also important not to rush the process – severe alterations in feeding early on in the recovery process could actually hamper the rehabilitation process.

•    Before beginning your care of the horse, consult with a vet – you should always seek professional advice before caring for an animal in severe danger of death. After a full examination, the vet will be able to recommend a nutrition plan and nursing techniques, as well as providing advice on any techniques to avoid.

•    Take things little-by-little, step-by-step. Although the natural temptation will be to provide the horse with a lot of food, this can actually have disastrous consequences for the horse. The digestive system will be very week, and the horse will be unable to cope with large amounts of food. Feed the horse with a low protein hay, and scrutinise the horse’s reaction slowly. If it is struggling to eat, withdraw any excess hay. Similarly, provide just as much water as seems appropriate – you want to avoid the potential dangers of overindulgence.

•    During the first week of rehabilitation, monitor feeding very slowly – you will begin to recognise both the signs of improvement and any potential relapses. Once the horse begins to build up a reasonable appetite, use a de-wormer to rid the horse’s digestive system and body of any parasites that may have exploited and worsened the horse’s weak condition.

•    Prospects of a full recovery can only be heightened by boosting protein levels in a starved horse. Good protein equals good body conformation, and one of the best equine feeds for a starving horse to consume is alfalfa as it is rich in protein and other essential nutrients. As stated above, it’s best to start with small amounts at first, increasing the amount provided as soon as the horse shows signs of encouraging recovery.

•    Finally, never put a time limit on the time it takes for the horse to fully recover. It can sometimes take a long time for a horse to recover from both the physical and mental trauma of experiencing malnourishment, so it’s essential to stay calm and focused on the recovery process and then results should follow. Generally, however, a horse should return to a healthy condition from a period of a couple of months to a year. Approaching equine nutrition in the correct way is the best method of preserving a horse’s health.   

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