Lethargic Mare


I've got a friesianxboerperd mare 2.5 y/o, when I got her a year ago she was infested with ticks and was in a very poor condition. We took approx 150 ticks of her and per the vets advice shot her some booster shots for a couple of days. I'm just concerned she's still very lethargic, doesn't play with the other horses, the only time she shows interest is feeding time. Feeding consists of lucern and 2kg of equifeed per feed. She's got a high bony wither and a big grass belly. She gets dewormed regularly.Any advice would be appreciated. Thanx.


What a lucky mare, to have somebody take her and love her and care for her like you are doing! Well done on coming this far!
What I would suggest is that you ask your vet to do a health check including a blood test on your mare to rule out any health issues such as anaemia or other health problems. I would also have him or her do a faecal count to check on worm populations because even though your mare has been dewormed, it could be that she still has a worm problem that might require treatment. Blood testing is useful because sometimes horses have a heavy larval infestation but have low faecal egg counts, because at the larval stage there are no eggs. At this time a blood test is the only way of detecting whether a horse is infected with larvae. A proper deworming schedule should include particular active ingredients that target the population of worms you are trying to control particular to that time of year. If management is not great, your horse could easily be picking up worm eggs in the paddock so even deworming regulary might not be controlling the population. Resistance to dewormers is becoming a large problem in this country unfortunately, as most owners will choose one type of dewormer and use it all the time, or give too little to save costs or not give it at the correct time of year. Signs to look for include a dull coat, scratching the base of the tail (pinworms), grass belly, lethargy, diarrhea, colic and summer sores (equine stomach worm or habonema).
The fact that she is not interacting with the rest of the herd may have more to do with her personality than with her state of health. I have often noted that many mares will keep to themselves when out in a group, often a very dominant mare will do this. They will often go a bit ahead of the herd, keeping it moving along and seem to be keeping to themselves. They appear solitary in the group. At feed time, however, they will display their dominance by fending off the other horses and feeding first, if in the group. Some horses that have not been used to interacting with other horses in a group may never integrate fully into a group because they have never been taught how as youngsters. This is rare though.
Lethergy can also a very subjective observation. Comparing one horse to another may give a false impression of lethargy because not all horses will play when out. What should be noticed is whether the horse becomes suddenly more, or less energetic. That usually indicates a problem.
Management can play a role in her behavior too – things to consider are where she is turned out, what the grazing is like, does she have access to some type of roughage during the day and how much stimulation she is getting during the day. (ie is it a busy yard with lots of activity or a private property with little human contact or other activity) You might want to introduce some stimulation for her, such as hanging treats in trees, introducing another animal such as a goat or sheep or other imaginative ways of keeping her mentally stimulated.
Feeding can play a very important role in the behavior and energy level of a horse. It is possible to increase the energy levels of the horse by feeding certain foods. What I would suggest is that you supplement your feed program with the following:
Oils/Fats – try adding ½ cup sunflower or corn oil, or try feeding soaked sugar beet (Speedi-Beet) daily. This should not only improve your mare’s overall condition but will also provide some extra energy that will make her a little less lethargic. I would also consider putting her onto a probiotic supplement, as her system will have been under a great deal of strain due to the heavy parasite burden she had at such a young age. The probiotics will boost her digestive system and improve absorption all round. Depending on the verdict of the blood tests, you might consider supplementing with garlic to boost her immune system, B Vitamins and Iron to improve immune system and general blood health (try BLUD IRON SUPPLEMENT, RED CELL) as well as a general vitamin and mineral supplement (such as Horse Power). As well as feeding Lucerne, I would also feed something like eragrostis hay to ensure that there is enough roughage being taken in during the entire 24 hour cycle – depending of course on what the pasture looks like.
The most vital piece of advice that I can give to you though, is to have her thoroughly checked by your vet first.
Good luck!

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