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The tack room

Thin horses

6 replies

Notgoingouttoday · 08/10/2020 19:35

I am looking for help to approach an old friend about her horse that is desperately thin. The owner is in her 80s and the horse is probably around 30 years old so understandably neither of them are in great shape. I tried saying that I thought the horse looked thin but was just told that it was due to age - it really is skin and bones (thoroughbred type, a showjumper but probably ex Racehorse originally). This friend is very experienced, a lifetime spent as a professional equestrian. Any ideas how to tackle it in a sensitive way, as I don't want to hurt her feelings but want to help.

OP posts:
bodgeitandscarper · 08/10/2020 20:08

If your friend has all her faculties and is very experienced then it could well be that the horse just wont hold weight at that age. Providing the horse has adequate food, dental and vet checks, wormed and well rugged there really isnt much else she can do. Trying a probiotic and feeding something like micronised linseed and readigrass might be worth suggesting in a kind way, but many owners will bristle if they feel management is being criticised, so dropping things into conversation may be tricky! It may well be that she is considering letting the horse go as winter approaches if she's dealt with old horses before.

maxelly · 09/10/2020 00:30

Tricky one - is he well in himself, bright, sound, eating etc? Not saying you are wrong about him being thin of course but a bit like with people we've gotten so used to overweight/obesity being the norm so could he be quite thin but not dangerously underweight - skinny-ish is normal for TBs of course. Is he already rugged and in at night over winter? If not then depending on your personal circumstances could you give her some spare feed and rugs (pretending your horses or your "friend's horses" fictional don't need them or you accidentally ordered 2 instead of 1 or had a mad late night ebay session or similar, a white lie or 2 in this scenario won't hurt anyone)? Or if you are local can you offer to help muck out or feed in the mornings or give extra hay, under the guise of wanting more horsey time for yourself (or if you have a conveniently aged child, a 'job' for them to do - you could let friend pay a notional 'fee' so they don't feel it's charity if that would help their pride)? Or if you are not local could you offer to help find a local groom to help out on a freelance basis, again perhaps sold as owner doing them a favour by giving them work/experience?

Otherwise I guess as bodge says if owner is in full possession of faculties and too stubborn to accept help, you may be limited in what you can do short of calling the RSPCA (and in my experience they are pretty rubbish where horses are concerned anyway). She may ofc be building up mentally to letting the horse go and that's why she doesn't want to talk about it, 30 is a really good age for a TB so she can't really imagine he'll go on much longer, and if they're both already in a bad way a very cold or wet winter will be really rough on them both as any horse person knows full well. But we should have a few nice-ish weeks left for them to enjoy one another's company, maybe even some sunshine, without needing loads of pressure to make that so difficult final choice (I can only imagine how hard it must be at the age of 80 to let what will probably be your last horse go Sad Sad.... ) could you maybe just keep an eye out in the next few weeks and see how they go?

Notgoingouttoday · 09/10/2020 07:31

Thanks for the helpful advice. The horse is more than just a bit skinny - it is emancipated and if it wasn't for the fact that this person has so much experience I would be intervening or calling a welfare organisation. However, the horse did seem happy and there are no other real welfare issues, it has a good coat and appeared happy. The stables are kept well and the horse is on some short but fresh grass. I will try to find an excuse to go round as often as possible and help out but it wont be easy as the owner is not one to accept help easily!

OP posts:
bodgeitandscarper · 09/10/2020 14:06

I think if everything is okay in other areas then it may take the vet having a look, the welfare agencies probably wont be able to do much if there isnt neglect as such.
Hopefully a vet could advise if action needs taking, and give the owner food for thought. Are vaccinations or dentals or anything due? You could maybe offer to hold the horse for the vet and steer the conversation towards its condition? Not an easy thing to sort though.

backinthebox · 10/10/2020 11:07

A 30 year old TB, especially one who possibly started in racing, has done well to reach this age and the owners’ care so far in its life will have played a major part in that. I’ve owned 3 horses into their 30s, and each of them dropped weight and struggled to keep it toward the end of their life. One had digestive problems and needed all kinds of digestive aids, one had lost most of his teeth and took forever to eat very soft mashes, one lost her eyesight and had to be guided to her food. None of them lived decades with me and got thin through neglect or ignorance. None of them were short of veterinary attention. By assuming the 80 year old highly experienced owner needs help to look after her horse, you are assuming she now either has a physical frailty or a mental decline that means she is not doing it right any more. I would start by trying to look after the human, and it will become clear from that if she is inadvertently neglecting her horse’s care. If you start by suggesting anything at all is amiss with her care of her horse, knowing several examples of the sort of 80 year old that has a doddery old TB she may well tell you to politely fuck right off. I know if I had all my faculties still and was doing my best for a loyal old friend, I would!

bodgeitandscarper · 12/10/2020 13:50

😂😂😂 Your post is so true backinthebox, many of the older horsey set wouldn't say it politely either from the ones I know!

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