When my husband and I decided to take the plunge and get horses, we had several avenues open to us. Living in Montana, we were literally surrounded by horses: people wanting to sell horses, give horses away, or auction horses. But there was one avenue that I thought would be best, and that was rescue a horse.
Why Horses End Up in Rescue
Despite horses being big, expensive animals, many nice horses are in dire need of homes due to no fault of their own. When economic times are tough, pets, including horses, suffer. Often lovely horses are neglected or put in dire situations because of their owner’s financial situation. If the owner loves his or her horses, he or she may contact a horse rescue and place the horses before there’s a bad situation. Still, other horses may come to rescue due to family deaths or changes in a person’s life.
In some cases, rescue horses are those that were headed for slaughter in either Canada or Mexico, where horsemeat is considered food. Buyers for the feedlots and slaughter houses often purchase horses at auctions. Some horse rescues will purchase horses there to save them from their fate.
Why Looking at a Rescue Horse is Worthwhile
If the rescue is a legitimate rescue with a good reputation, you may be able to find your dream horse and discover a resource in the process. People who run these rescues care about their animals and want them to go to the best possible home, and thus want a good fit. Their screening may be rigorous and they may ask plenty of questions about you, your experience, your property and your lifestyle, and whether you’re really committed to owning a horse. At the same time, they’ll be looking for a horse that will fit with your experience level and your family.
If it’s a good rescue, they’ll be honest and upfront on the horse’s limitations and shortfalls, unlike a seller who may gloss over behavioral problems, health problems, or other issues. Rescue horses usually cost much less than a horse you would buy from a breeder or private owner. Most cost between $200 and $1000.
One reason people shy away from rescue has to do with the restrictions surrounding their horse’s ownership. Many folks are daunted by the contracts, requirements, and other stipulations put on them when they adopt an animal. Most rescues require you to return the horse to them if you wish to part with it. That means you can’t sell the horse. Most require no breeding and even property and home checks to ensure the horse is being taken care of properly. Many even have trial periods where the horse isn’t completely yours for a month or two while you get used to each other. The point isn’t to pry, but to ensure that the horse isn’t going into a worse situation.
Things to Look for
If you’re looking for a riding horse, look for one that is sound, that is, a horse that isn’t lame, or a horse that can be ridden with minimal issues. Many horses in rescue have some problems that might preclude them from being ridden far, but, these horses may be fine for light duty riding.or even beginner riders. If you suspect a lameness problem, have a veterinarian check out the horse. He or she may be able to determine whether this horse can be ridden at the pace you’ve decided.
Another thing to watch out for is behavior problems. Rearing, bucking or bolting are not only unpleasant, but can be downright dangerous. Unless you’re an experience rider who knows how to break horses of these habits, don’t adopt a horse who does these things.
Helping You with Your Horse
Horse rescue is not just for acquisition, but for finding out about resources in your area. Want to know who the best horse vet is? You can bet horse rescue will tell you who is good in your area'”or will find out. Need a source for good hay? Yes, they can tell you where they get theirs. Trainers? They can point you to good trainers, too.
Adoption isn’t for everyone, but it is an avenue that gives the would-be horse owner the ability to find the right horse and save that horse’s life.
Horses for Dummies, Audrey Pavia, Wiley Publishing, 2005.
Should You Adopt a Horse?