We first learned of Velvet in October of 2008 when helping coordinate a fund-raising ride to benefit the local horse rescue organization. She had come into the rescue’s care about 2 months earlier, and was stabilized enough that she could be adopted-out to the right home. I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog or the animal in need, so I asked about Velvet’s story. It seems that she had at one time been a police horse and when retired was adopted-out to what was thought to be a good home. They in turn gave her to a family with a young boy who needed a bomb-proof mount on which he could participate in 4H shows. While in their care, she began to lose weight, thus they returned her to her previous owner. Unfortunately the owner then passed Velvet on to a horse “hoarder”. The hoarder did not feed her (nor any of her other 15 horses) properly at which time said hoarder called the rescue and said “Take her or we’re going to shoot her.” Nice huh? She insisted that Velvet would not maintain weight due to age/illness/parasites. Of course age can’t be controlled, but the other two possibilities sure can be!
Velvet at the hoarder’s, Summer 2008
Truth be known, I had been on the look-out for an older, calmer horse for my daughter who was a timid rider (due to her evil pony) and without a mount after my beloved Cisco died about a year earlier at nearly 32 years of age. Police horse? They don’t get more bomb-proof than that, so we went to see her. After 2 months of good care, Velvet was still very bony and in need of lots more TLC. I think I had a very valid argument for bringing her to our house -
“She was a Police Horse!!! She served the public and should have a cushy retirement, not be starved!!!”
The husband didn’t think we needed another horse to feed, but he knows better than to argue when my mind is made up regarding an animal.
So Velvet came to our house.
There shouldn’t be a “shelf” over her ribs!
You can’t immediately start pumping feed into a starving horse because they can founder (a painful hoof ailment) or colic (the worst stomach ache you can imagine complete with bowels twisting), so we started upping her feed slowly. Velvet went from 4 pounds of Senior horse feed (high in fat) a day to 8 pounds of Senior feed, with all of the grass hay she could eat. And eat she did. And ate, and ate! She also had a pretty good worm burden, so we de-wormed her, and had the vet out to float her teeth (if a horse’s teeth aren’t filed down they can get pointy and cut up the insides of the cheeks). Life was good.
Velvet seemed to know she was the daughter’s horse.
She also seemed to know about “horse cookies”!
When she came to us in October, Velvet would walk to and from her stall and wander over to her feed. After a month or so, she started to trot, and by December she cantered for the first time. We were ecstatic! The woman from the rescue stopped by to see Velvet and nearly cried she was so happy. This of course made us very happy too! At this time we rode her for the first time. It was obvious that she had gotten away with quite a bit in the past, but she would learn that she wasn’t living with pushovers any more.
Velvet in December – the “shelf” is disappearing.
"Don’t interrupt me when I’m eating!!!”
Velvet really is bomb-proof – the husband always likes to “test” the horses. He figures that if they can put up with his antics, they’ll be immune to just about everything in the environment. While Velvet had her face in the feed bowl, the husband walked up to her and tossed a 40 pound bag of bedding pellets under her belly so that they went WHOMP onto the floor beside her. I don’t think she even looked up, let alone stopped chewing. I felt as if we’d won the lottery! Nothing bothers this mare – not the chickens, or ducks, or dogs, or grain trucks. Perhaps maybe my other mare, but then Pumpkin goes out of her way to irritate Velvet.
Velvet March 2009
Now it’s June, and Velvet has come full circle. Velvet is now FAT!!! In fact, we were worried that she was pregnant, but the giant belly has maintained its shape, so we’re pretty sure it’s “food not foal” in there. When I turned her out into the paddock with our other 3 beasts yesterday, she not only cantered, she galloped and bucked she was feeling so good.
Life is good.
So how do you save a starving horse?
You just have to FEED IT!!!