Not-As-Needy Acres

tales from the heartland


Population 693, Nebraska, Middle America
December 28
C.O.B. (Crabby Old Bag)
Scientist, wife, mother, slave to the furry beasts that own the house where I live.


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JUNE 9, 2009 4:19PM

How to Save a Starving Horse

Rate: 30 Flag



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.



 June 2009






 Life is good.


So how do you save a starving horse? 


You just have to FEED IT!!!



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What a sweet face she has! You are awesome, blue. It's funny; my monthly Horse Illustrated had an article this month about rehabbing neglected horses. Seeing Velvet look like that made my blood boil. But fat and happy is good.

Does your daughter still ride her?
Ash - she's still working up her courage, and the weather hasn't been helping! Daughter has ridden her in the arena and was worried at first, but soon decided Velvet was about as safe as Cisco.

By the way - "Georgie" was once her name, and she may have been a Police Horse in Colorado - if you have any connections in that world, I'd love to find out more about her history!
Wow. What a stunning transformation. Velvet is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story.
OMG- look at that fine horse!!
Wow. Just... wow. And I thought I had it bad in a family that rescues dogs and cats without even thinking about it! What a beautiful - and happy & healthy horse. If I had a hat I'd take it off to you and your husband. Congratulations!
She's gorgeous!!

Well done. She has a beautiful face and great eye. Just lovely.
damn... what a transformation!
that horse looks good now and tail all snappin' around.
What a transformation. I don't know horses, but I do recognize kindness. Long may Velvet run.
I shall ask, because after all, it's worth a shot! Will send you a PM with any information I come across.
It's like a miracle! She's stunning. As someone who is still traumatized by Black Beauty, I must thank you. This makes me feel good.
What a great story - the pictures are heartbreaking and then joyful.. What a beauty!
Sad sorry to start off with. I can't believe people will do that to animals, it is sickening. Beautiful and happy ending. Gorgeous horse. Great post! enjoyable to read.
Velvet says thanks to everyone for their flattering comments! She says she's a beauty inside and out :)

Those interested in an amazing horse rescuer should check out they save hundreds of horses each year.

There's a saying that "the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a (wo)man" - it's definitely been true for me working with Velvet. Just watching her improve has given me much happiness. She's worth every penny we've spent on feed and scads more.

Cymraeg - we rescue dogs and cats too. If it shows up at the house, it gets to stay. That is the law!
I don't want to think about the first part of this story. But now, that beautiful horse is a miracle. The transformation you brought about by food and love is a wonder. Thank you!
Great story and a happy ending.
blues you are an angel for this one and i'm sure many others.

rated for your kind soul
this is such a great story; it's almost impossible to believe the horse in the first pic is the same as the last one. velvet looks happy now, and absolutely beautiful; way to go blue!
It is sad someone let this horse get so malnourished esp. after its service. Velvet looks like a brand new horse now! I hope your daughter appreciates that!
It always just amazes me how people can be cruel and/or indifferent to animals who need help. The last pic. is amazing--it looks like a different horse and the coat is sleek and shiny. Thanks for what you did!
My sister works at a place that takes in starving horses. I was shocked at how many there are! Good for you for doing this... so sad that people do not take care of their animals.
Blue, this is wonderful. Look at that coat! I can only imagine how rewarding is was to watch her transform.

She's got the longest back I've ever seen! I wonder, did the hoarder and/or people before ride her a lot? That certainly could have attributed to the weight loss - her kidneys would have so much pressure on them since she's so long.

There's a property down the road from us and they have probably 20 horses on it. It doesn't appear they have very much acreage. We can just see the weight dropping off of them. I keep wanting Paul to just load them up and take them away! It just makes us sick.
Thanks again for everyone's kind words! I showed my husband the post last night and his comment was, "That's not the same horse!" Um, yes dear, it really is!!! Watching Velvet bloom over the past 8 months was a slow process, and until I actually looked at the photos, I didn't realize the transformation either!

Julie - yes, Velvet is VERY long-backed! She's sound as a bell at 24 with extremely smooth legs, and is actually very comfortable. I don't get the sense that she's sore-backed (or kidneyed) at all - thank goodness.
My god, what a wonderful horse. Beautiful and great personality. I'd like to hear more about how she is as a mount. I learned to ride late in life. I love the idea of a bomb proof horse.
Oh my gosh - what a transformation! Velvet is beautiful and you are a hero of the highest order.
oh god, this would have made me cry if i could cry! what a heartfelt and moving piece. i was so afraid that she was going to die after all that that i read with a bit of trepidation. i'm so happy that she's fat and happy and has the excellent life that she deserved, that all beings deserve, but she earned it with her police work.

thank you for sharing this story. i rescued two senior dogs that were equally starved and huge messes but over time they too became fat and happy. love love love and graittude
I feel pretty embarassed getting praise for helping Velvet - animals give so much more than they get, the best therapy in my life is my daily quiet time with them in the barn each morning while they're munching on breakfast.
She looks fabulous now, not fat at all. Great ending.
I'm glad you were able to save her. What a beauty! Thanks for sharing.
I have a feeling that you did much more than feed it! What loving, patient people you are! Amazing rescue; can't even believe that's Velvet in those last pictures. Quite inspiring!
You are a special person to work with horses. I admitted my knowledge of horses in my most recent post (about Phar Laps), but I am learning! I think that they have a lot to teach US about patience and virtue.
Obviously, I don't have to tell you. This was a remarkable story. Thank you so much.
What a wonderful outcome. She's beautiful. Thank you for this story.
Thanks a lot for sharing the article on horse. That's a awesome article. I enjoyed the article a lot while reading. There are lots of information about on horse that also could be awesome.
Congratulations! She looks so much better! Of course, Velvet SHOULD be feeling good, she's found herself an excellent home after a run of bad luck.