My family raised American Saddlebreds in Central Kentucky, at least until the late-1970s when they realized that spending several months a year at horse shows was fun but tended to create a financial black hole. We had some very nice horses, including a seal brown gelding that was Kentucky Association of Fairs and Horse Shows High Point Champion in the fine harness division for a few years. His show name was Flying Home but around the barn we called him “Slim,” because no matter how hard we tried, we could not keep weight on him.
It was inordinately frustrating.
Slim always had good quality feed and hay, he received a batch of supplements and appetite enhancers, his teeth were in good shape, he was dewormed regularly, and ongoing consultations with the veterinarian probably paid for a new examining room at the clinic. Nothing worked. He ate like the proverbial horse but would not gain weight. When the Kentucky State Fair horse show rolled around at the end of the season, Slim always looked like an ill-nourished refugee. A stranger seeing Slim in his stall, or driving by the farm and seeing him grazing in a field when we pulled his shoes and turned him out after his retirement, would swear that he was being neglected.
What prompted this stroll down memory lane was a comment from one of The Horse’s Facebook friends. This was the dilemma: An older mare at the farm where the individual’s horse was boarded had a serious medical condition. The owner of the horse appeared to be ignoring the mare, and the owner of the farm was administering medication, presumably on the advice of a veterinarian, although that fact is