Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Horse Health Care: How to Help a Rescue Horse Recover from Trauma

The words 'rescue' and 'adoption' are becoming all too frequently associated with horses these days. With some of the coldest temperatures in history and the economic downturn, people are dumping horses left and right.

In fact, it's so bad that people are secretly stashing unwanted horses at a sale horse in empty trailers to avoid having to pay the sale barn commission!

Being "dumped" can definitely be traumatic for horses, since they often pick up on their humans' distress. Plus, when they are being "dumped" they have no idea what is going to happen to them. This level of uncertainty can traumatize even horses with the most stable personalities.

Four Ways to Help a Horse Recover from Trauma
If you are one of the good Samaritans who has adopted, rescued, or otherwise provided a home for a needy horse, you are probably dealing with a horse who has been traumatized to some extent. Even horses who don't show outer signs of trauma may be feeling insecure and uncertain, which can sometimes lead to health issues like colic, ulcers, or allergies.

For instance, a horse with a Metal personality type can often be dying inside while never showing outer signs of stress (read more about horse personality types on the Horse Harmony website or test your horse's type for free at Horse Harmony Test).

There are many small steps you can take to help your newly acquired horse feel more at home and recover from the trauma of relocation. Here's a short list to get you started, all easily integrated into any regular horse health care routine.

Horse Health Care Tip #1: Talk to Your Horse
Even if you aren't the world's greatest animal communicator, your new horse understands more than you think. Horses understand our intent, even if they may not understand the words we use to converse with them. Reassure your new charge that they are safe and will be cared for. It's important to be honest. If you are not sure that you can provide this horse a "forever home," then don't promise it. You can tell them that you will care for them, love them, and provide a safe home for them for now. Daily reassurance is very important to a traumatized horse. If you need help with animal communication, check out the Herbs and Animals website or the blog.

Tip #2: Provide a Steady Routine
Traumatized horses take great comfort in routine because it gives them something reliable to lean on. A steady routine that runs like clockwork will help a relocated horse settle in quickly. This works especially well for mustangs, who are traumatized from being gathered and shoved into a domestic situation. It works the same way for domesticated horses who have been relocated and are uncertain about their future.

Tip #3: Feed The Nervous System
Most rescue horses are nervous wrecks on the inside, even if they don't show signs of anxiety on the outside. This means that they are operating from their sympathetic nervous system, which is their "fight or flight" nervous system. It is not healthy for them to operate from the sympathetic nervous system all the time. In nature, this "fight or flight" reflex is only meant to be used in situations requiring a quick response. After the threat is over, the horse should shift back into their more normal parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with healing and relaxation. Unfortunately, most traumatized horses get "stuck" in their sympathetic nervous system, which means that they can't relax or let down their guard.

To help them shift back into the parasympathetic nervous system, we have discovered that a course of the herbal supplement Eleviv works great. A short course of high doses of Eleviv (2-6 capsules per day) can help a horse shift quickly into the parasympathetic nervous system, and start relaxing. Economic times are tough, but even 1 bottle of Eleviv (60 capsules) tends to work wonders when given in high concentrations, even if this means you use the entire bottle in 10 days (and I can help you get the lowest wholesale price on this product).

Tip #4: Provide a Good Buddy
Sometimes an older horse or a horse with a steady disposition can provide a lot of support to a newly rescued horse. The experienced horse can take your new rescue under his wing, and "show him the ropes." The experienced horse will show your new horse where food and water are to be found, as well as teach him your regular barn routine. Horse personality types that make good "babysitters" for rescue horses include Earth, Yang Ming, and Shao Yin types. Again, you can read more about horse personality types at Horse Harmony or test your horses' personality types on the Horse Harmony Test website.

Simple Horse Health Care Tips for Rescues
I hope these simple tips help you help your rescue horse. It can take a lot of resources, time, and effort to bring a traumatized rescue horse back to vibrant health, but it's worth it. The joy of seeing a fearful, flighty, or troubled horse restored to happiness is worth just about any price in my book. These days, providing a good home for a horse is a worthy endeavor, even that horse never does anything but "look pretty" standing in your pasture.

Yes, hay and horse feed are expensive, and horses eat a lot. But you can count rescuing a horse as a form of tithing. If it makes you feel any better, you are earning brownie points in horse heaven.

Or, as my friend puts it, you are at least "gilding your karma," which has got to be a good thing, right?

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Photo credit: / CC BY 2.0

1 comment:

  1. It is sad how horses and other animals are treated sometimes. I enjoyed your article.