Equine rescue and horse sanctuaries

Farm Forum

In 2010 a study of unwanted horses and the role of nonprofit equine sanctuaries was released. The study was conducted by H.E. Holcomb, C.L Stull and P.H. Kass from School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis. The objective of this project was to retrieve comprehensive data from nonprofit organization that tend to the unwanted horse population as well as the outcome of the horses accepted into horse rescues and sanctuaries.

In 2007 the last equine slaughter facilities in the United States were closed, reducing the options for unwanted horses. There are many potential reasons why a horse becomes unwanted. Some of the reasons include illness, injury, age, misbehavior, lack of interest in the horse and unmarketable qualities. Some of the main issues with unwanted horses since the closing of the processing facilities include where to place them, and how to care for them. Through the years it has been estimated that a total of 100,000 horses become unwanted every year.

Equine rescues and sanctuaries struggle with space for these animals as well as funding. The number of eligible registered nonprofit equine rescues has been reported to be as high as 432 in recent years, with capacity to house only 13,400 horses (Unwanted Horse Coalition, 2009). Research showed that funding is the greatest challenge for maintaining rescue facilities. On average, it costs $3,648 a year to care for a horse at a rescue facility. This estimate includes maintenance costs and care of the horse such as labor. Many of the horses that come onto rescue facilities need extra care in order to become healthier. In fact, about one-half of the horses that were in the 2009 Unwanted Horse Survey were believed to be unhealthy because of injury, illness, poor body condition and lameness(reference). With the lack of funding, equine rescues are sometimes challenged with the option of closing their doors to more horses or perhaps closing the rescue facility.

In closing, equine rescue facilities and sanctuaries start up with good intentions for helping horses. Adoption is a great way to help with the unwanted horse problem. However, as mentioned before, 100,000 horses become unwanted every year, and not all of these horses are adoptable. This causes hardships within rescue facilities because of the lack of space and funding for the horses and the people in charge of the facility.