Holly is a 28 year old thoroughbred. who came to us for sanctuary as she had no place else to go. Her owner was moving across the country and could not take Holly to the new home…even so Holly would likely not have survived the trip in her condition.
She was very thin when she arrived
Her owner reported that she had been deteriorating to this point over five years with no medical explanation. Veterinary exams and labs all came back normal, many conventional and holistic things were tried yet she continued to fade.
Everyone assumed that Holly was simply coming to us for sanctuary in a safe and loving place to die with dignity. However, we can’t resist a puzzle and we certainly can’t just watch an animal waste away without trying to solve the puzzle. To do that, we think outside the box.
First the issues:
Holly is a Thoroughbred.
Thoroughbreds are not like other horses. The breed has been developed for centuries to run fast and as such they have bigger hearts, bigger lungs and higher metabolisms that other breeds. Because of that they need more calories per day even if they are not racing.
Holly is a smooth-mouth
“Smooth-mouth” is a term for horses that have reached an age where the surface of their molars are worn smooth, much like human teeth are normally. The problem with that for a horse is that because they are foraging herbivores, they need to be able to crush and cut – tough, fibrous -plant material as the bulk of their diet, but they are unable to do so. Concentrated bagged feeds that claim to be “complete” feeds are some help, but a horse due to the design of their digestive system, must have small amounts of food going in almost all the time and most horses are fed concentrates once or maybe twice a day at the most. This leaves an empty stomach for most of the day causing all sorts of gastrointestinal damage.
Holly is 28 years old
With advanced age comes a decreased efficiency of the digestive tract to absorb nutrients. This is true for any breed of horse, or any animal for that matter.
Holly also has an old injury that has left her with episodes of swelling in her hind legs and lameness coming primarily from her hind end.
Multiple small feedings throughout the day. Holly was not lacking for food where she came from. She was getting two feedings a a day that amounted to about 8 pounds of feed and hay available 24/7. However, she would often not finish her meals. Since she has been at Whisper Ranch, she has eaten each meal. We jokingly say that its because she is the only mare among 11 geldings and wants to get her girly figure back…LOL! but truthfully, we don’t know why she would not eat before but eats well here.
We also calculated her daily feed requirements based on what her weight should be for her size (approx 1200 lbs). A horse needs about 2% of their body weight per day to maintain weight, more to gain. That means 25lbs of food per day to maintain her if she were at the ideal 1200lb. Most of that 25lbs is supposed to come from forage, but being a smooth-mouth complicates that enormously. We feed her every 3 hours a combination of concentrate bagged feed and chopped forage (aka chaff).
We are excited that Holly is doing so well and look forward to her getting to full weight.
One year of progress:
November 2017 Update
Since she has been here, Holly has had two significant and severe active ulcer episodes. Both times it put her on the grounds and both times we thought it might be the end for her. However, working with our awesome vet, Dr. Jarod Eddy, she pulled out of both and is once again doing well.
We have come to realize that it is very likely that the reason she was in the condition she was when she arrived, was likely due to ulcer related gut pain that kept her from eating enough to sustain body condition. It wasn’t until the ulcers hit here hard enough to put her off her feed for as many as 9 straight days, and laying on the ground for hours at a time, that we figured it out. The process of developing a protocol, close observation and daily tweaking of her diet and treatment, finally gave us not only the big picture, but also enabled us to see the early clues (symptoms that she hides very well!)that an ulcer was beginning to flare.
As time permits, we will post details of what we did…what worked and what didn’t…what we are doing currently, and how it all ties together to keep her gut pain free in hopes it will help others.
Holly has a sponsor! Thank you Derry of Arizona for being there for her through thick and thin 😉