Before I go into his spa retreat, I wanted to lead with the good news first, which could end up burying the rest. But, oh well! Vallier (barn name Mojo) gained 17 pounds his first week here. I’m not sure if we will see much next week, because often their bodies will take a break before another weight gain. We’ll see what happens though. We’re heading in the right direction, and that’s all that matters.
This blog will answer some of the questions I’ve received since we all brought Mojo home.
The first question is why does he have to be in quarantine? Good question. Well, we have no idea if he picked up a disease such as strangles or pigeon fever for example. We need to keep him in quarantine to see if anything emerges, and to protect my other three horses. However, I’ve decided to rename his time in quarantine as a spa retreat.
This poor guy needs the break that the quarantine time is providing. He needs to relax. He needs to sleep. He needs to be able to eat without being pushed off by other horses. He is getting fed in bed (four small meals a day), his nails (hooves) done, hair done (full body wash), bodywork (I do equine massage), select treatments (He has been wormed twice; once with a light wormer and this past Monday with Equimax. Next he will go through a round or two of sand clear), and dentistry work (Monday). When we go for walks, he can see my other horses, yet he never tries to walk towards them. He isn’t ready to be around others, so I see this time as meditation and retreat time. It’s allowing his body and mind to heal from what he went through.
After I wrote this, something interesting happened tonight. The UPS driver came, my dogs were barking at him, and suddenly Mojo started to run around. It’s the first time I saw him do something besides walk. The horse has some moves! He seemed perfectly sound. Later Dulce and Harley were playing, and Mojo watched. That is a first. He never showed an interest. Both are very good signs.
Second question is why aren’t I feeding him alfalfa and oats? Have you ever fasted before ? If you have, imagine fasting for ten days and then eating at McDonald’s afterwards and throw in some chocolate cake. You will be so sick! You will be running to the bathroom probably ever thirty seconds.
That’s the same for horses. Alfalfa and oats are really rich, and all they will do is make Mojo sicker than sick. They could make him colic at the worst, and get really bad, cow patty, watery, diarrhea, which will only cause him to lose more weight. I’ve successfully put weight on three other OTTB’s with the diet he is on, and if anything needs to change, I will. This is a work in progress, and he will tell me what he needs.
I pay attention to how he is after he eats, I watch for any changes in his poop, I make sure he is farting easily, I look to see if he is chewing at his sides a lot indicating bad gas, and I look to see how much he’s eating throughout the day. So far, we’re doing good. He gets beet pulp, which is low in sugar and starch and puts weight on horses; flax seed, which is filled with omega fatty acids and puts on weight, timothy hay pellets, and a bit of Nutrena Safe Choice feed. All low in sugar and starch, which is so important. He also gets California Trace Minerals, which he gobbles down, two tablespoons of salt, a splash of Forco (not even close to one 1 oz) Vitamin E, Flax oil, and an MOS prebiotic. I figure he ate poop to try and survive in the kill pen since they stop feeding them when they enter into the system. The MOS prebiotic binds on to salmonella and e coli bacteria escorting them out of the body. He also gets Aloe Vera Gel, not juice, to address any stomach ulcers he may have. Several studies in Australia were done that showed aloe vera gel can heal stomach ulcers. Eventually, I will add marshmallow root, but for right now this is it.
When a horse or person have starved, their organs shrink in size, so I don’t want to overload anything. This is why he gets small meals instead of two big ones. It is all in a mash to make it as easy for his system to digest. He also gets free choice hay. It will be awhile before we see changes on the outside of his body, because first the changes need to happen within. Once he heals inside, we’ll see great stuff happen outside, but that is a ways off.
The important thing is to go slow and steady. When you start to see improvement, you immediately want to feed more, and that is when you really need to stop yourself. Just give a bit more to see how the horse does….stay there for a few days. If everything goes well, add a little bit more. I started out feeding him once a day. When I saw he was stable there, I went up to twice a day and so on. I don’t plan on adding anymore food to his bucket for another week. I want to see how he does. If he does well at eating four small meals a day, I may not increase the feed for another two weeks, and then add a bit more beet pulp….see how that goes, and then maybe some more hay pellets….see how that goes. Slow and steady.
Why do I walk him if he is so thin? Doesn’t that hurt his weight gain? I did the same thing with Dulce. Horse’s are built to be mobile. It is important to keep their guts healthy and to prevent colic. They have this incredibly long digestive tract, so movement is really important to maintain motility. Also, his topline, and all of his muscles for that matter, have atrophied. I don’t want to put weight on him without muscles to support it. Otherwise, that topline, which is non existent, could stay that way. Walking him helps with his digestive system, and slowly but surely it helps build up muscle. It will help his topline redevelop. It also helps his hooves stay healthy and develop into the beautiful hooves I know he will grow. It also stimulates all of his organs that are starting to get stronger and hopefully more of a normal size. It also helps release tightness and stiffness. Each time we walk, he starts blowing out his nose, which is a sign that his back is releasing. He starts yawning and shaking his head, which is a sign of poll and TMJ release. It also helps us develop a relationship, and he gets to go out and see things. It’s great for his mind. We’re learning each other on each walk.
Do I hate horse racing because of what happened to Vallier? No. One of his trainers helped bail Vallier out. Others who knew Vallier came forward to tell me tidbits about him. Did you know that the one time he won a race, he had to dodge a loose horse that dumped his rider?
I don’t even know if it was someone from the track that dumped him in that field. I have no idea who did it. What I do know is that people that knew him in the past, cared about him and came forward to help him out. This is the horse racing I knew as a kid. Everyone on the backstretch helps each other out and the horses when needed. I know with the latest news that came out this week you probably don’t believe me. With regards to those people, they need to be banned for life and go to prison if all of this is true. All cheaters like them need to be banned from the sport, and there needs to be a unified, investigative body constantly watching and testing horses to protect them and the jockeys from selfish people such as this.
True horse people always put the horse first. I saw it all the time, and I saw it when all of these people that I’ve never met and good friends come forward and help out Vallier. It will always bring tears to my eyes, because my gratitude runs so deep.
I was asked by one person if I regretted getting a kill pen horse at. The answer is no. I will never regret bringing him here, nor will my husband. We are totally in love with him. He is a joy to spend time with. He loves to be loved, and he is happy each time I go out to him. He walks up to greet me, putting his head over the panels reaching his nose out to mine. He is a blessing in our lives, and each time I look into his eyes, I see more and more life in him. He is coming back. He has a ways to go, but he is coming back into the world with a good heart. I’m honored to be a small part of that.