TRF Blog (Post #2): Groceries!
First things first: Food
As the new members of our herd suddenly found themselves in a new home, just outside Saratoga Springs, the TRF team focused first and foremost on the most critical element in the lives of these fragile creatures lives… food.
As we’ve all seen in the movies, the worst thing you can do for a starving creature is to give it too much of what it wants (and needs) most – food, because of the havoc that a sudden change can wreak on the delicate and deprived digestive system.
Reintroducing a balanced diet
In all equine feeding regimes, especially cases like this, the guiding principal is “hay & water, then the grain”. A horse’s diet is based on forage and balanced by grain, so the most important thing for our four horses was to introduce forage back into their diet with 24/7 access to clean drinking water. Once they adjusted to that, the key has been to gradually add in grain to fill their nutrient requirements .
Upon arrival our new horses were all given 1s and 2s on the Henneke Body Condition Score (on a scale of 1-9). A score of 1 is considered poor or emaciated with no body fat. So, our charges have a long way to go… but the challenge will be to get there slowly, so as not to overwhelm their fragile systems.
Thankfully, our four rescues were receiving hay – in small amounts – at the farm where they lived before coming into our care. Nevertheless, we carefully worked through an equine re-feeding schedule by giving them a few flakes every 4-6 hours. With this cautious approach, we reduced the risk of colic and intestinal issues. After a few days of this schedule, we were able to graduate them to 24/7 hay – always ensuring ample, clean drinking water accessible at all times.
Bring on the hay – a generous gift
Once stabilized, the good news is that hay is something the horses can eat alot of without significant risk. With sincere thanks to an incredibly generous donation of 10 beautiful, first cut round bales of hay from Gallagher’s Stud we were able to give each pair a full round bale to work on. In order to give the horses as much room, and as little competition for food, as possible we had kept them in the same pairs as they had arrived: Candy & Iceman in one paddock, with Joey & Surprise in the other. Our amazing team rolled one round bale into each paddock, and the horses settled in to munch to their hearts content.
Nitty Gritty Nutrition
Meanwhile, the really important part of their recovery will come from a gradual, thoughtful reintroduction of the nutrients that these horses have been deprived of for a long time. Candy and Iceman started with a ration balancer from Poulin grain twice a day. Then, we added a half pound of Poulin senior grain every 4-5 days. Once they had been with us about a month, we increased this up to 1 scoop of senior and the ration balancer topper. (Please note: we feed by weight, not volume, but for feeding instructions to our wonderful volunteers, we mark the quantity on the scoop.) Joey & Surprise were on the same schedule, but they started 2 weeks later. It seems like very little food for such skinny horses, but it’s just what they need for now. Here are a few photos of what breakfast looks like, and the feed we’re giving them.
More than calories… they know we care
Perhaps just as important as the physical impact, this feed is certainly helping us assure them that we, the first people who’ve paid attention to them in a long time, really are looking out for them. You can see it in their eye – they don’t seem anxious, they seem to believe in us, and to trust that we won’t let them down. It’s a beautiful thing to see that look in the eye of a furry, muddy and hungry face. The look of “I trust you”… Truly, it is why we all do what we do.
From now on, we expect that they will all be on the same feed schedule, and their grain may gradually increase. And now, we begin the deworming and other critical care (hooves & teeth!). More on that soon.
Your help is appreciated!
Please share our blog with your friends who care for rescued and retired Thoroughbreds, and know that every gift makes a difference to Candyman, Iceman, Joey and Surprise. No donation is too small, as we give these wonderful creatures the care they need to regain their health and eventually start the next chapter of their lives in the TRF herd. We are hoping to raise a fund of $40,000 to provide each of these horses with the nutrients, medicine and rehabilitative care they need to live out the rest of their lives happily and healthily.
Visit our TRF Rescue Page to make your gift today!