Rehabilitation after Neglect: The Real Challenge Is Never Weight Gain


There is little doubt, Heart of Phoenix sees starvation at its most extreme month after month, year after year.

The refeeding of the very starved horse is not something to take lightly. While it isn’t complex, it is something where one mistake will cost the horse her life.

Our very basic refeeding suggestions are here for horses that score 3 or less.   

While some reports mention that horses starved to body score 1 condition are frequently not able to recover, we have lost only 2 horses (both very senior, very large bodied and body score <1) that were 1 or less. Most of our nearly 300 cases have been body score 1 or 2 in condition.

Rehabilitation from starvation alone is something we understand very well, and we really do not worry about “IF” a horse can recover from starvation only these days. We know the odds are GREATLY in the favor of recovery if the horse makes it to Heart of Phoenix with only extreme emaciation at play.

Unfortunately, extreme starvation cases sometimes do come in with various other chronic conditions resulting from their neglect. The issues are vast, and when present. . .management of the conditions often means masking pain, low quality of life and no chance of a home in their future.

We are thankful that typically, the horses of HOP are horses that are sound and able to be entirely healthy once rehabilitated from starvation, but sometimes, they come to us with conditions that make rehab ANYTHING but possible or in their best interests.

Those conditions aren’t always visible to the naked eye like a skeletal frame, so they usually seem less harmful, but horses are remarkably fragile and the list of chronic, quality of life conditions that can plague even the most well cared for horse is long. When a horse comes to us with perhaps decades of abuse, it is no wonder that even conditions that would have been manageable have becomes too difficult for them to overcome.

So when you see the starved frames of horses on our page, trust that the weight is never our primary concern when it comes to rehabilitation. While starvation is a horrible thing for a horse to face, we never give up on a horse because she is simply just “too thin” to recover. We have long since learned if that is our only mountain to climb, WE WILL make it up and over almost always.




Leave a Reply