Respected Contributor
Posts: 2,768
Registered: ‎03-09-2010

Bmorechick, I've had horses since I was five years old.  When evaluating a horse's condition, the rule is "Ribs, you can feel them, but should not see them."  So if you can see this horse's ribs, then it is being starved.  Also, since it is confined in a muddy pen, does it have any shelter from the rain?  Horses need, at the very least, a three-sided shed with a good roof to keep dry and out of the wind and rain, or they get a skin disease called rain rot, caused by a fungus that causes the hair to fall out.  Also, they need a dry place to stand, in order for their hooves (feet) to stay healthy.  A different fungus can infect their feet and cause enough lameness to cause irrepareable damage leading to the need to euthanize the animal.  So if this animal has no shelter and is standing in mud 24/7, you should not wait and see, but you should contact your local police department or sheriff's office, depending on whether this home is inside city limits or outside them, thus making it a county matter.  Hopefully there is an humane officer on the force in your locality who specializes in investigating animal cruelty, and they can visit this horse to determine if it is being abused.  Just because the owners are not beating the horse does not mean it is not being abused, if it is being starved or not provided with a clean, dry place to stand out of the weather, with adequate food and clean water, then it is being abused. 


Too many people do not have any idea of how much land it takes to keep a horse on, or how much food it takes to feed them.  The normal light horse needs to be fed a minimum of three tons of hay a year, and that's if you are also feeding concentrates like grain and alfalfa pellets.  And that's if they have a clean, dry barn to stay out of the weather in, if they are out in the cold without shelter they may need twice as much.  And of course, one has to clean up after a horse just like a dog or cat, and believe me, you can't scoop up after a horse with a tiny shovel like a kitty litter scoop, or pick up in a baggie like a dog!  And you can't put all that waste in the garbage can, either.   If you don't know what you are getting into when getting a horse, the logistics can be quite overwhelming, and sadly, as in many other such cases, it's the animal that suffers!   There are farm animal rescue groups around the country, so I hope that they can help this horse if need be, but the first step has to be with law enforcement, only they can force the owners to either take proper care of the horse or take it away from them. 


Good luck, and bless you for caring!

Regular Contributor
Posts: 155
Registered: ‎11-06-2013

OP-bless you for being concerned.

As a horse owner myself, I'd be concerned about the horse being alone.  Horses are social animals and enjoy companionship of their own kind.  Generally.

As far as being able to see ribs on a horse, it does not necessarily mean the horse is being starved.  Many senior horses will look "ribby" no matter how much they are fed.  In addition, some breeds of horse are prone to being thin.  I owned a thoroughbred gelding who was a "hard keeper"-he had food in front of him all the time but was always on the thin side.  My current horse has the opposite issue-he's a porker:-)

To me this sounds like a situation that is definitely less than ideal.  Does it really constitute neglect?  It's hard to say.  It doesn't hurt to have your local humane society check it out.  But in all likelihood, as long as the horse has access to food, water, and shelter, they will not view it as neglect.  There's a big difference between "less than ideal" and "neglect/abuse".