Letter from DVM about horses

March 10, 2008

To Whom it May Concern:

This letter is written in response to a situation related to us by Kenny Price and a subsequent farm visit made to a group of horses under his care.  Mr. Price has been involved with the rescue and rehabilitation of neglected and undernourished horses for several years.  He has other horses under his care that were found to exhibit good body condition.  The group in question involves 5-6 horses that are kept together at a rehab pasture at the end of Lauderdale County Road 302 in Alabama.  We had been contacted at the behest of Mr. Price due to a complaint of abuse charges against him and the resultant media hype generated by such.

There appeared to be more than 25 acres of land including some wooded land with at least two sources of water.  After a couple of days of near 80 degree weather in March, the grasses were greening and all horses were grazing as we arrived.  A half eaten roll of sorella mix hay was present and an earlier roll eaten down could be observed.  The white horse in the group was in the best condition and has been there since summer.  The majority had body condition score of two and appeared to be responding happily though still in a serious state.  The critical individual was a sorrel with a BCS of 1 and who is one of the newest additions this winter.  This individual is frail but actively grazing.  Anemia, which is common in rehab horses, is exhibited via oral mucus membranes.  Vitamin B-12 or complexes injections every two weeks were recommended on all individuals for this reason.  This individual has received some special care and may require more as her condition evolves.

We discussed the need to de-worm monthly which Mr. Price was already doing.  The need to rotate families of de-worming agents was also encouraged.  W are both agreed that a sick horse needs fiber from hay and grazing, not abundant grain.  (The re-feed phenomenon observed at the end of World War II where several concentration camp survivors were subsequently killed by the generosity of their liberators who gave them too much food too quickly, is very real.)  Horses that are rescued are often foundered or caused to colic by their well intentioned new handlers.  Mr. Price has avoided these pitfalls in almost twenty years of dealing with such situations.  We briefly talked about concurrent illnesses that afflict debilitated horses.  This group is battling a common skin infection know as "Rain Rot".  Though there are many possible treatments available, we tried to recommend a high yield, easily performed option for this group.  As we near the end of winter, many animals need the best quality of feed at this time.  Therefore, the supplementation of range cubes from Alfalfa based forage or the introduction of a Bermuda hay source would be advisable.  When grain is introduced it should be in small amounts and at frequent intervals.

We briefly alluded to the need to verify by picture future animals that enter the program and initiate the charting of their progress to avoid any confusion by the uninformed.  We also recommended that some sort of simple sign be mounted at the gate to designate this pasture as a rescue, rehabilitation effort.

O feel a need to offer a personal opinion on this situation.  All would agree that these are thin horses.  However, there is a dramatic difference between one who has allowed a healthy horse to become thin through neglect, and one who is trying to recover a thin horse back to health.  This nutritional recovery process in Equines usually is a six month minimum project, if no set backs are encountered.  The above situation is neither pristine nor perfect, but it is adequate.

Where do most people believe such nutritional rehab occurs?  There is no dream barn and yard in Lexington, Kentucky that magically takes in and cares for horses rescued from dire circumstances.

Many folks desire that such rehab be available to needy horses, but they have no clue what is demanded either in terms of time, money, nor effort to obtain such.  The overzealous media person with a microphone and a camera and a spin will do nothing but discourage those who are already involved.  The unknowledgeable well intentioned citizen who reports such honest efforts like the above as abuse is not capable of such care.  However, such accusations may well scare those who are capable away from their labor of love because of the potential for bad press and its repercussions.  It is incumbent upon the powers-that-be to recognize these issues and distinguish wisely in the discharge on their duties.  If folks like Mr. Price do not perform rehab on a grass roots effort it will not be done with any success.

These in brief are my findings and assessments.  If any further explanation is required please contact me.

Yours truly,

T. C. Hammond, DVM