Secret came to us in August, 2014 as an 18 year old registered Tennessee Walking Horse that found himself in the middle of an unfortunate family feud over his care and treatment.
Although it was very difficult to say good-bye, his owner felt that the only way to keep him safe and get him the care he needs was to surrender him to a rescue. We applaud her courage in putting the well-being of the horse above her own attachment to him, so he would be free of the family drama.
Secret is significantly underweight, displays a number of old scars on this body, as well as damage to his hind fetlock joints (suspensory weakness).
He has been diagnosed with gastric ulcers and is being treated for that issue. Due to his history, we suspect he has (or will have) ulcer scarring in his gut, so he will be on ongoing management for GI issues and prevention of future active ulcers.
Emotionally he displays behaviors we often see in horses that are treated very harshly on a regular basis. He definitely lacks trust and seems to expect every approaching human will hurt him. He seems to struggle to not avoid being touched, as if he wants that connection (as most horses do) but fears the touch might bring pain. This is manifested in significant body tension, pinned ears and curled back lips, often showing his teeth. Its as if everything in him is screaming to run or fight, but he knows from his past that doing so will make it worse for him. His behavior is reflexive so we approach calmly and wait for him to relax before proceeding. Once we can touch him, and no pain comes with it, he will bring his ears back up and relax a good bit, though never completely.
Time will tell. We will do everything in our power to earn his trust and restore his health as much as is possible. We expect it will be a long road.
NOTE: To be clear, the woman who surrendered Secret, did not play any part in his troubled life she was his one brief bright spot and worked hard to restore his health, weight and mental state. She succeeded in her efforts but it was relatives who thought they could just do what they wished with Secret, without her permission. It was they who undermined everything she had done. Again, we applaud her putting Secret’s needs ahead of her own when she surrendered him in order to get him away from those people.
Update: October 2014
With GI management and a solid, stress-free feeding program, Secret has gained weight to a healthy level.
Update: September 2015
While getting up from a nap, Secret’s suspensories on one hind fetlock gave way. The wear and tear from years of being started too young, ridden too hard especially while underweight and out of condition can lead to this, particularly in gaited horses. The damage becomes more manifest and many begin to break down and continue to deteriorate as they age, even if they are never ridden again (Secret has not been and never will be ridden since he came to us.)
Equine rescues everywhere deal with horses like this, tossed away after being ridden into the ground. A lucky few end up a rescue facilities, the majority end up at sale barns where they likely find themselves on the killer buyer’s truck headed for a slaughter house.
Now we must help him deal with the pain and instability in that joint. The joint pain and weakness in his hind fetlocks caused him to drop some of the weight he had gained and adds to the difficulty in gaining back the weight (pain will take weight off a horse pretty quick!) plus he cannot (will not) lay down any more because it hurts to stand back up. That means he is unable to get the deep sleep that all horses need, even though we have observed that he desperately wants to lay down. Lack of deep sleep keeps him stressed which adds to his GI issues and also contributes to keeping his weight down.
We have him on a supplement that has shown good results for horses with suspensory and other types of joint issues but it costs $100 for a 30 day supply. We also have some suspensory support “boots” for his hind fetlocks to give him enough comfort to lay down and sleep. He is also receiving ongoing GI support with herbs such as Slippery Elm, probiotics, and immune support supplements.
Update: February 2016
The good news is that Secret has been able to lay down to sleep since we began the supplements and the support boots. However, the damage to his suspensories has taken its toll. Getting up is often difficult for him and can take several tries, depending on which side he lays on. Once up it takes a few minutes for him to get his back-end to cooperate, but after a little while he is able to get around, although with a limp that he will likely always have. Fortunately, he does well on flat ground and going down hill…up hill is when the limp is most evident.
We continue to provide him with supportive care, but the vet confirms what we already know…this can’t be fixed. We will continue to care for him, keep him as comfortable as possible. He will spend his old age knowing he is loved and no one will ever hurt him again.
Please pray for Secret!
Update: May 2016
Pictures taken the first week of May. He’s holding his own and seems reasonably comfortable and content with life.
It is interesting to note that pictures taken at different times of the day and in different light make him look like three different horses 😉
If you can help us provide the care he needs, it costs $200/month minimum to provide. Any amount at any time will help and be gratefully received!
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