Horses, like all living creatures, require 3 basic needs for survival: food, shelter, water. Unfortunately, not all people in the equine industry understand this concept.
After retiring from the racetrack in the Spring, my mare was boarded at a local “rescue” barn for 2 1/2 months. During that time, she lost a significant amount of weight, muscle, and most importantly, her personality.
On the racing circuit, track horses spend up to 23 hours per day in a stall. Post-track, my mare lived outside 24/7 with no access to shelter even during storms, literally fighting for access to hay and water among 6 geldings, most of whom were mustangs. Her diet contained no grain or supplements. In short, we were living every horse owner’s worst nightmare.
As a result, we moved to a new barn and began the long rehabilitation process. After 6 weeks, we are just now starting to see significant positive changes in weight, muscle tone, coat color/thickness, and most importantly, personality.
As horse owners, we have to accept the harsh reality that we may not always live out our expectations. We have to adapt to our horse’s individual needs, despite whether it is something that we as owners “want”. This can include diet regime, turnout schedule, and shod vs. barefoot, among other things.
As for rehab? This isn’t just a process we deal with post-injury. This can occur after a traumatic event, an emotional journey in addition to physical (for both horse and human owner). Almost every equestrian I know has a sour apple boarding or former trainer story. “Perfect” barns don’t exist. And rehab is a frustratingly long process. But, you have to celebrate the small victories along the way, such as a recent positive all-day turnout experience in a group herd setting.