We received a call last week from one of our supporters about a Thoroughbred she had tried to get the owner to surrender to us several years ago. Unfortunately, he refused at that time, but this past week he contacted her and told her that he was moving and needed a place for his horse. We made contact, and he told me over the phone that she was a little thin, but that he was riding her consistently. I was hopeful that she just needed a diet more conducive to an older horse. With that in mind, I went down on Tuesday to look at his mare.
What I saw when I got there, unfortunately, was a horse who needed much more than just some extra feed. She looked like she had mange, as half of her coat was light brown and matted in several places, and was several inches thick, whereas some was dark brown and black. Her feet were overgrown in front, and one of her hind feet looked as if it had been previously injured (I found out later she had a very bad abcess a few years prior). She had what appeared to be ringbone on her front right, and thin didn’t even do her justice- she had no topline to speak of; no muscle, and her backbone jutted out. I called the vet and made an appointment for Thursday; told the farrier that he had another horse to do that Sunday; made preparations that afternoon to make sure she had a stall ready at Hanaeleh; and picked her up the next morning.
She jumped into the trailer, actually scaring the owner a bit as he was in the trailer with her, but we got her settled in, and I drove the short trip over to the ranch. I put her in the quarantine stall as she is incredibly overdue on all of her vaccinations, and gave her some timothy pellets, some orchard hay and a bran mash. She wasn’t thrilled about the bran mash, and was not overly thrilled with the timothy pellets or orchard hay, either, but I am concerned that she may have cushings, and a high-sugar diet of alfalfa is not healthy for her. She spent the ENTIRE day calling out, which was kind of sad, but she always calmed down whenever I would go up to the stall and talk with her. She is really very sweet, and while she isn’t necessarily completely trusting of people, she’s not distrustful either; I would say she was more aloof than anything. She finally decided that since it didn’t appear that she was going to get anything but the healthy-type of food, she might as well eat it, and began slowly making inroads on the orchard when I finally left that evening (still was not eager to try those timothy pellets, however).
On Thursday morning when I came, she had settled in and was eager for her food, and had stopped calling out (she nickered as I came up with the hay, then gave me a dirty look when I didn’t give it to her- we had to wait until the vet took the blood sample, so she was fed a few minutes later than everyone else). The vet was appalled not so much at her condition, but that her owner had been riding her in that condition. He gave her some of her vaccinations (we break them up into two sessions- it’s a bit easier on their system that way), and took blood to test for cushings. Then he did a basic wellness exam, noting that she had arthritis and confirmed that the right front did look like the beginning stages of ringbone. He was more concerned about her teeth, however; he noted that she had a crossbite, but it appears it is from a lack of dental work over the years; in essence, because her teeth have not been floated, they created an unnatural crossbite that prevents her from chewing normally, and therefore she is really only getting about 50% of the nutritional value of what she is eating. We will have her teeth floated in a few weeks- we don’t want to stress her out with too much all at once, especially the float, as she is going to need to be under sedation for much longer than usual as there is more to file down, and it will probably take a few sessions before her teeth more closely resemble what would constitute normal for her. We confirmed her diet, including supplements to help her build up muscle and a joint supplement to at least start helping to alleviate her arthritis issues. Because she was not eating the timothy pellets, she will remain on the orchard hay for now unless the cushings test comes back negative.
On Sunday the farrier came out and worked on her feet. He balanced her back feet as best as he could, but her right front had a lot of diseased hoof from not being trimmed or cared for regularly. He did trim her so she was resting on her hoof walls instead of on the soles of her feet, so she should be more comfortable. It will take two or three trims before all of the old, diseased hoof completely grows out, but now that she is on a more appropriate diet, she should begin to grow a healthier hoof. She was very quiet and calm throughout the process, and actually seemed to enjoy our company. She really seems like a very sweet horse.
Since we have a Thoroughbred named Sapphire who is a princess in her own right, and Ruby, who also believes she is royalty and deserves the princess title, we have decided to continue the “princess” and “gem” theme and call this girl Princess Onyx. She is a special girl, and deserves to be treated well.
For now, the plan is to continue to feed her and get more weight on her. Over the course of the next month, she will get her second set of vaccines and her teeth will get their first float. She will need to remain in the quarantine paddock for the next few weeks, but then will be able to be turned out in the arena and round pen.
We are hopeful that we will be able to help to get Onyx her weight and muscle tone back, and get her back to feeling like a healthy horse again! We will continue to provide updates on our new girl as she progresses.