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Need advice (long post)

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  • Need advice (long post)

    There is a new horse at the barn where I board. Her name is Mocha and she is a bay OTTB mare of unknown age. The man who got her says he got tired of walking when he goes elk hunting and wanted a horse to ride instead. So she is supposed to be his hunting horse.

    Here's the problem. This man got Mocha for free and doesn't know anything about horses at all. Mocha is in some serious need of some TLC.

    To give you an idea of how green this guy is, the first day he had Mocha, I had moved my horse Uno into the barn aisle to tack up and get ready to ride. I picked out Uno's feet, and they guy asked me what I was doing. I explained it to him, then he asked me why I was doing that!!

    And at feed time, he literally took 2 handfuls of hay and threw it over the stall door. I asked him what he was doing and he said 'feedin her!'.

    So I explained to him about hay, too. I also tried to talk to him about supplements, etc...but I think he didn't realize horses were so much work. He isn't mean and I think he's trying his best but he just doesn't get it right now.

    Mocha is the sweetest horse I have ever met. She loves attention and will stand stock still in the barn aisle to get groomed and loved on (always by me, he doesn't groom her). You all know the type. They just look at you and give you that big, wet, sigh. My heart ran away from me.

    Well, Mocha is in terrible shape. Her spine and hips stick out so much that she has sores on her hips from laying down. But she only skinny on top! She has a huge huge gut. I think thats why her owner doesn't think anything is wrong with her. I'm thinking its worms. He has dewormed her once, but I'm thinking she probably needs one of those Panacur power paks to really clean her out.

    Then she needs a lot of conditioning and collected work to put some muscles back over her top line.

    But he won't or can't spend time doing what needs to be done. I've tried helping him out and giving him advice but he either doesn't care, doesn't understand or doesn't have time to take my advice.

    He has just been putting her on a trailer, taking her up in the woods, riding the crap out of her for 7-10 days, then bringing her back and putting her in the stall. He doesn't see her again until its time for the next hunting trip. (She's on full care, I see her everyday).

    Poor girl is not fit enough for that type of riding in any way, shape or form. It makes me so sad to see her with her little western saddle that sits right on her withers and spine, and the super long shanked western bit he thinks he needs on her. She really just needs a snaffle, she is so sweet and doesn't have the energy to try anything with him anyway.

    This little mare would be a stunner if she had the right owner. If I could afford another horse I'd do whatever it takes to get her. My husband even loves her and says we'd buy her if we could afford to board two.

    For now I give her all the special attention and love I can.
    I have offered to work her over the winter for him...that way she'll at least be fit and feel better when he takes her on these insane hunting trips. He has given me permission to work with her. I have experience with OTTBs but I've never rehabed one before. She doesn't need any let down time, I think she has been off the track for a while and she knows her basic walk trot and canter just fine.

    I guess basically, my question is this...How do I build up her top line? I'm thinking lounging w/side reins to encourage her to round and use her back. I will also be doing some light riding, focusing on collection, again to try and get her working round. Anything else I should do? What is the proper way to use side reins? I haven't used them in ages.

    Mocha is eating a good amount of decent quality grass hay. I told her owner it wouldn't hurt to feed her as much as she'll eat. He is going to pick up a Panacur Power Pak today, and I'll be worming her for him. I have also suggested some senior feed (I think she is probably 13-16 years old.) What would be a good amount of senior to start her on? Right now she is getting 4 cups of rice bran per day, but I'm going to have him take her off that for a while, I think it is just adding to her huge gut. We are also going to add some Probios and MSN to her grain.

    Where do I go from here? Am I doing the right things for her? What else can I try? Any help is greatly appriciated. Here are some photos of the lovely Miss Mocha. Her condition is worse than it looks in these photos. It is hard to tell exactly how far her spine really is protruding.

    In this photo you can see the sore on her hip from laying down.

    And look at her vertabrae in this one:

    Thanks for looking! Sorry I was so long winded!

  • #2
    OMG that horse is definitely in NO condition to be ridden hard for a week up in the mountains hauling around an idiot. Not the skinniest neccesarily, but definitely in need of some TLC.. and such a sweet face!!!
    Bless you for doing what you did. I hope you warned him how much a PP is, hopefully he actually does get it.
    Persistance seems to have gotten you somewhere at least... But it is still worrisome that the saddle doesn't fit and god knows he's probably yanking her face around and ruining a good horse.


    • #3
      Oh dear. Prepare for your heart to be broken - mine aches for you and her already.

      Do what you can and try to not let it make you feel crazy. Sometimes thats all we can do. Hopefully something good will happen and she'll end up being yours eventually.
      "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


      • #4
        I'd honestly start with handwalking that horse at a good clip for about 30-45 minutes a day for a couple weeks just to build base fitness. Poor girl has NO muscle.

        Is she getting any grain? What sort of hay is she getting? I've found with my TB mare that if she's not getting enough protein, she is NOT going to build muscle, no matter how much correct work she gets. You may want to consider how you can up her protein--either with some alfalfa hay or with some grain. If you can get it, I'd recommend Triple Crown Senior, and start her off at 6 lbs a day (which is what they recommend.)

        In addition to being wormed, she's probably overdue for getting her teeth done. How do her feet look?


        • #5
          If I had my way, I'd tack him up instead She definitely needs more calories - I don't really se a huge gut though. Looks fairly normal to me, but pictures can be deceiving.

          It also looks like she's maybe had some rain rot over her rump, rather than a sore from laying down? She'd have to lay down a lot to cause sores and if she is laying down a lot I'd be seriously concerned that there's something else potentially wrong with her.

          Bless you for making this a better world for her.


          • #6
            So sad... I agree with Simkie about handwalking, if you can swing it. Any work is better than standing in a stall waiting to be pulled out for a rigorous work out for days on end.

            With worming however, it can get a bit troublesome, especially with a TB as they seem to have sensitive systems to begin with (some, not all). I would recommend getting her on a daily wormer (Strongid pellets) for a while so as to not "shock" her system all at once with a more agressive approach. What's worked for me in the past was starting the daily, then every 7 days thereafter paste each recommended rotation wormer until one full rotation has been completed. So, rather than run the risk of shocking in one week, you're taking aout a month or so for her system to adjust. Colic is always a possibilty so one would not want to over-do it. I'm sure other posters could give you some good ideas as well. It's worked for me, but I'm only one person and certainly not an expert.

            It's pretty obvious that this horse fell into the wrong hands, and she really does look like she could have some potential. She looks very sweet. However, she has you.

            Perhaps you should ask about a partial lease? If this is something you could do, I'd try to work something out with this guy. Maybe he'll grow board of her and decide to hunt with a 4-wheeler... Let's all hope!
            "There is dignity in lightness, truth in patience,
            but only ignorance in force"... www.cedarpinefarm.com


            • #7
              I'm a little confused. If she's on full board isn't hay and grain included, and fed by barn staff? It's been a long, long time since I've boarded a horse but places I've been feed whatever a horse needs (enough hay and general purpose sweet feed) to maintain decent condition. The horse should start looking better in fairly short order.

              Anyway, the PP sounds like a good idea, and the Probios. MSM, well, some horses it helps, others not. Is she getting just rice bran? That sounds weird to me.

              It's great that you're trying to educate the guy, but don't overwhelm him. At this point all he needs to know are the basics- like about 2-2.5% of BW in forage/day and enough grain to keep the horse in good flesh. Show him what 20# of hay looks/feels like. Let him feel the fat cover on a healthy horse's ribs and back. Explain that horses should see the dentist once a year to get rid of sharp points that make it hard for a horse to chew properly. Show him how to pick out feet and explain why a horse's feet need regular attention. Be nice, keep it simple, and don't ask him to spend to much money at this point. He got this horse for free, correct? The horse right now is relatively safe- don't push him to the point that he thinks it's too much money/trouble to keep her- she may end up in a much worse situation in this crappy economy.


              • #8
                Originally posted by BSFKimbees View Post
                Maybe he'll grow board of her and decide to hunt with a 4-wheeler... Let's all hope!
                OK, so what happens to the mare if he decides to hunt with a 4-wheeler? It's not like horses are selling like hotcakes lately.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by shakeytails View Post
                  OK, so what happens to the mare if he decides to hunt with a 4-wheeler? It's not like horses are selling like hotcakes lately.

                  Good point... No 4-wheeler .
                  "There is dignity in lightness, truth in patience,
                  but only ignorance in force"... www.cedarpinefarm.com


                  • Original Poster

                    Wow, thanks you all! I am new to this forum and just want to say thank you all for being so nice. Let me try to clarify a few things about my post.

                    Our barn is a little different than most. Full care at our barn does include feeding (owner provides hay and supplements), turn in/out, and stall cleaning. All of this work is done by a 'care person', not the BO. Our BO is running the barn purely for the financial gain (he built a barn for his wife, she left him, he got the house). He is not involved in the care at all. He probably couldn't even tell you my horse's name, and I have boarded there for 5 years. Our barn is run more like a co-op. By saying that he is full care, what I meant to illustrate is that her owner doesn't have to be there every day to care for her. I am self care so I am at the barn every day, twice a day to care for my horse. That was the distinction I was trying to make.

                    The night that the horse owner threw the hay over the door was Mocha's first night in the barn. Her owner was there to get her settled in and wanted to feed her dinner that first night. That was his attempt to feed her dinner.

                    Her teeth and feet look good. I have been in her mouth alot lately trying to read her tat (no luck) and checking out her groove, trying to age her. I think she is probably 13-16 years old.

                    I wish I could have a vet out to look at her. Unfortunatly I can only afford to care for my own horse. The owner told me he had a vet out, but I was not there. He didn't know to ask for a fecal exam.

                    I don't want to hurt this horse, and if I thought I was doing her any harm I wouldn't be stepping in at all. The sad fact is that her owner is going to ride her, no matter her condition. I just wanted to try and help Mocha get fitter so it will be more comfortabe for her.

                    I'd like to share some photos of my OTTB so you all know that I do know how to take care of a horse. My boy is fit and well behaved. (Ground tied, God love him!) He is well loved and very well taken care of, and I just want the same for Mocha.

                    Oh, and I just wanted to let you know, if the four wheeler thing happens, Mocha is coming to live with me! I am getting a raise the first of the year that should be able to cover her costs (fingers crossed), and I've already got my husband half convinced and a credit card... So her future is secure.

                    Thanks everyone!
                    (and Uno)


                    • #11
                      I do think she needs some more feed, but when I opened the picture I expected to see a complete rack of bones. She has an ok coat for this time of year and you can see just as many ribs on my old TB gelding -he's just built that way.

                      If the barn feeders are giving her enough to eat then maybe you can try to educate him about what she needs when he takes her on a trip. Can she get more bedding to help with the hip sores?

                      Did he buy her in this condition? Or did he allow her to become like this? If he bought her that way, then there is more hope than if it was him who caused her to get this thin.

                      Is elk season year-round? This may come to an end soon anyway.


                      • #12

                        I agree with Hilary. I do some volunteering for a local rescue and you should see some of the wrecks they get, hips you CAN hang a coat from...

                        This horse doesn't look too bad. She just needs a little TLC. I think I would also continue to help this man. He probably loves chatting with you and the attention. And, if he's getting the power pack, then he wants to do right by the horse so good on him. This horse will look as good as Uno by spring with your supervision.

                        As far as the rub, that could even be a bite mark as well?

                        Good luck and kiss to both horses.
                        Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
                        One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
                        Add Very Funny Horse Bumper Stickers on facebook


                        • Original Poster

                          Thank you! To answer your questions, she was in this condition when he got her. I agree she is not a complete rack of bones, oddly she is only skinny on top. I don't know how long elk season is.

                          The hip rub is not a bite wound, all horses are turned out into individual pastures. She has a matching one on the other side.

                          I have a question about the handwalking. We have a hotwalker at the barn and being OTTB, she hotwalks beautifully. Can I use it in place of handwalking her? Unfortunatly the hotwalker only goes in one direction. If I put her on it, will I be making her lopsided?

                          Thanks again in advance,


                          • #14
                            It's times like this I've got to wonder about the free-to-good home ads I keep seeing in the newspaper. Why did former owner give this horse to Mr Clueless?

                            If this isn't your horse, you can't go training or exercising her without the owner's permission. Step 1 would be to see what he's ok with you doing.

                            Talk to him about diet. Maybe he should be encouraged to get a vet exam on his new horse, so (hopefully) the vet could discuss feeding issues. Or if you can get the guy somewhat interested, maybe a very easy-to-read care book would be of help to him?

                            I don't know what else to say... it sounds like you may be fighting an uphill battle. Good luck to you.
                            Veterinarians for Equine Welfare


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by UnoIsMyHorse View Post
                              I have a question about the handwalking. We have a hotwalker at the barn and being OTTB, she hotwalks beautifully. Can I use it in place of handwalking her? Unfortunatly the hotwalker only goes in one direction. If I put her on it, will I be making her lopsided?
                              The hotwalker is better than nothing, but I think actually going out and walking them is much better. Yes, she will get uneven since it only goes one direction and because the circle it's on is not large.

                              When I handwalk, we go out at a good clip--I want the horse marching and swinging and stretching as much as possible--and I do vary the direction and even which side I lead them from. I try to go on long, straight stretches and try to keep the horse looking forward, rather than craning the head and neck around or walking crooked. I like them to stretch down and forward.

                              When I walk a horse, it's work for them and for me. We don't just go out and wander around. There's a purpose and a goal and I've seen impressive muscle gain from just walking


                              • #16
                                Hot walker is DEFINETLY better then nothing, you could also pony her off your gelding, if you take care to observe precautions.

                                The trick, IMO with these type of new owners whose horses need special care, is to make it seem like what they need is status quo, ALL horses need shoes/senior feed/half a bale of hay twice a day/power pac every other month/teeth floating every 3 months/extra vet visit in the winter etc. I would also try and schedule some services at the same time, ask the owner to share farm call fees with you.
                                "Oh Mr. New Horse Owner, when is your farrier coming? Mine is next week and I hate to make him come out just for my horsie, if it's not too much trouble could you do me a HUGE favor and have Mocha done at the same time? "
                                Do not take anything to heart. Do not hanker after signs of progress. Founder of the Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                                • #17
                                  Tell him when the equine dentist comes around she needs to be done or she'll be a pain to ride and loose more weight.

                                  If you put things in a way that'll make it more fun/easier for him to ride her he'll be more likely to bite and take better care of her.
                                  Now in Kentucky


                                  • #18
                                    Not trying to be a hard you know what here but...when it is not your horse, you are setting youself up for trouble. No support at all for any extra vet work, farrier care or any additional feeds over what your barn provides. You are going to worry all the time and be powerless and, at some point, get your feelings hurt. This one is not THAT bad shapewise and not abused even if you disagree with the owner.

                                    About the working with the horse, remember what the owner uses it for, camping out while hunting. Everything you do has to compliment that, not contradict it. She has to be safe and quiet. And he, as owner, can use whatever equipment he sees fit on his hunting horse.

                                    This mare is getting fed, has been wormed, has had some foot care and has a purpose in life for her owner. May not be the way you keep your horse and certainly is not what I do with mine, but it doesn't belong to us.

                                    I well understand your feelings and have had them many times myself...and that is why I have learned to leave things like this alone. I mean, do what you can when you work with it but, honestly, don't expect anything to change. Wouldn't worry about her topline either, just light excercise when you do work. Keep her safe and quiet for the trailwork that is her job.

                                    One other thing...take it easy on trying to "educate" the owner. Tends to backfire. Bad. BTDT to the detriment of the horse involved.
                                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                    • #19
                                      It sounds like she is getting her basic needs met.

                                      I also caution you not to get too caught up in her.

                                      Keep watching out for her, but only speak up on the *very* improtant things. If you start making everything a big deal about every little thing, the owner will probably start ignoring you... so pick your "battles".


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by shakeytails View Post
                                        OK, so what happens to the mare if he decides to hunt with a 4-wheeler? It's not like horses are selling like hotcakes lately.
                                        I imagine when he's done with her, he'll just give her away to anyone unless he becomes terribly bonded to her. She was given to him- a stranger- and it sounds like he sees her as more of a tool than an animal.