Caring for a Rescue Horse
Many people take on a horse without fully understanding either the financial implications or the demands the horse will place on their time. The result is often people neglecting and abandoning the horses. These animals will need new homes but taking on a rescue horse isn’t a straightforward task. You won’t really know what you are getting, and the horse could have serious health issues. Your new equine friend may never fully recover from their previous ordeal.
Here’s what you should do if you take on a rescue horse.
Make sure that you get the appropriate documentation from the rescue organisation or person from whom you have acquired the horse. You might need to prove how you came by the animal.
It will be your responsibility to obtain a valid passport for the horse if it doesn't have one. If you do not have a valid horse passport, you cannot use your horse in competitions, move your horse to new premises, sell or export your horse or use your horse for breeding. If the horse does have a passport, check that the details are correct and update the document if necessary. A trading standards inspector from your local council may ask to see your horse’s passport and they could fine you up to £5000 if you do not have one. It would also be a good idea to microchip the horse.
You should quarantine the horse for 3-4 weeks to prevent any contagious diseases from affecting other horses. Monitor the new horse’s temperature daily and perform a faecal evaluation so you can evolve a worming strategy. Female horses with an unknown history should have a pregnancy check when they arrive and again after 30 days.
If the horse is emaciated it must be fed with care. It is important to assess the animal’s state of emaciation and professional advice should be sought to establish a feeding regime. If you feed an thin and weak horse too much too quickly, it could suffer respiratory, heart, and kidney failure within a few days. Severely emaciated animals should not be vaccinated as their system may not be able to tolerate the vaccine.
Thin horses will struggle in the cold. Always ensure that you have rugs with the appropriate level of insulation. If the horse has developed a heavy coat, be aware that this can conceal weight changes.
Feeding and watering your new friend will help you to build a bond with the horse. Remain consistent and kind but always be aware that a rescue horse could be unpredictable in their behaviour and it will take time to establish any factors which stress or spook them.
Exercise and Training
Severely emaciated horses should not be forced to exercise until they have recovered. Start by turning out and hand-walking the horse to re-build muscle and develop trust. Establish a relationship with the horse over a period of 6-8 weeks before attempting to saddle or ride them. This period will also enable you to assess and treat any lameness.