Slewy, my off-the-track Thoroughbred, has always been a hard-keeper. I feed him and feed him and feed him some more, and he eats everything in sight (I think feeding time is his absolute favorite thing) but he’s still skinny. I’ve done all the basics – regular deworming, regular teeth floating, basic blood work, etc.
I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t think I realized just how skinny he was. I think its harder when your horses live at home and you see them at least twice a day. I stopped seeing that his hip bones were a little too pokey and his ribs showed a bit too much. Plus, when I got him, he was still “race fit” so I’ve never really known him any other way.
I haven’t written about it much (probably because I’m embarrassed) but I’ve owned Slewy for seven years now and really have made very little progress on his training. He’s still definitely what you would call “green”. There’s a variety of reasons for that – the biggest one probably being my own confidence issues. So, when I found a new trainer for my daughter that we both absolutely love, I decided it was time once again to tackle Slewy.
I managed to get on him a few times but noticed that every time I got his saddle out, he would roll his eyes with this, “please don’t put that on me” look. Things didn’t improve once I was onboard. Poor Slewy was so terribly tense that I was constantly fearful that he was going to explode any minute. Which, of course, made me tense, which sent the two of us in a vicious circle.
Finally, my new trainer came out to take a look. She informed me just how ridiculously skinny he was and convinced me that he can’t “just be a hard-keeper.” She suspected gastric ulcers. Thankfully, the super fancy vet clinic nearby was sponsoring a talk by the Ulcer Guard folks and were scoping horses for gastric ulcers for just $100. So, off we went.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it I suppose) Slewy didn’t have any glaring ulcers. He had one little tiny ulcer (maybe) but his entire stomach lining looked inflamed and ouchie. Honestly, I was more than a little disappointed that we didn’t have a definite diagnosis.
So I plopped myself down in my vet’s office (different from the fancy vet clinic). We decided to make some major changes to Slewy’s diet and did a briefer (less expensive) course of Ulcer Guard. I decided to give him a couple of months off.
That was all in October. Now, in late January here, I think he’s finally a little fatter!!! I still haven’t put him back to work because its been raining and my arena is a swamp. Slewy just gets turned out with his buddy, brushed, and fed. While he’s working on putting some weight on, I’ve been taking lessons on my trainer’s dead quiet lesson horse to try to improve my confidence and get my legs back in shape. Next step for Slewy is to start back on the lunge line (once my arena dries out) and then we’re going to take a look at how his saddle fits. I wish I could take some of my minis’ fat and stick it on Slewy. Then everybody would be in better shape!
Maybe Slewy will always be somewhat of a hard-keeper. But at least now I feel like we’re on the right track to him being healthier. I’m trying to not worry about the fact that his one month off has turned into several months. We’ll get back to riding eventually and hopefully it will be a better experience for both of us!