When dealing with a starved horse, how should you feed him? How much should you feed, how often, and what type of feed will bring the horse back to good health without causing more problems?

The starved horse is in a most delicate health predicament, and returning it to health requires using proper refeeding protocols. However, a starved horse should undergo a thorough veterinary examination to determine that there is no underlying medical reason for the weight loss.

The first 10 days are critical in helping the horse transition from a starved to fed state, according to Carolyn Stull, MS, PhD, an animal welfare specialist at the University of California, Davis. Stull has conducted extensive research on refeeding starved horses and has found that starting starved horses on alfalfa or alfalfa mix hay is the best plan of action due to the high composition of quality protein as well as major electrolytes, phosphorus, and magnesium found in these hays. Stull says the best approach for initial refeeding consists of frequent small amounts of high-quality alfalfa. The amount should be increased slowly at each meal, and the number of feedings decreased over 10 days. After 10 days to two weeks, horses can be fed as much as they will eat.

Severely starved horses should not receive concentrates for the first few weeks, Stull advises.

Refeeding Syndrome

The delicate nature of refeeding starved horses is a day-to-day process that cannot be rushed. Stull says she receives many calls from veterinarians and rescue groups asking about the protocol and how to avoid medical problems. She warns against refeeding too much, too soon, because i