Adoption is a noble thing to do. Rescue stories can be incredibly moving, and it’s no surprise people will want to help them. But horse adoption is not something to be done on a whim. In this post, we talk about some things you should think about before going on to adopt a horse.
Horse Adoption: What To Do And Where To Go
Many say that an adoption is an act of love, and they’re not wrong. There are many horses out there in need of a good home with someone willing to care for them. This, though, isn’t something to do carelessly.
One of the main concerns about horse adoption is whether you want to involve yourself with a horse that went through abuse and neglect. Before we proceed to the tips, it’s important to say not all horses up for adoption are neglected or otherwise injured animals. Some horses had owners who couldn’t care for them and are otherwise healthy, so don’t dismiss the idea out of fear.
Also, do not adopt a horse that did suffer injury and neglect out of some misguided attempt at saving them. Unless you do have the skills, time and money necessary to care for them, it might just end in frustration for you both. Any animal that goes through these things needs time and sensitivity to recover. Sometimes it might take months, some might take years, and some might never recover fully in a physical and mental sense. Inexperienced owners should not go for horses suffering from abuse, or, at least, should not go unprepared.
That said, let’s see some things to keep in mind before going on to adopt a horse.
What do I want?
This might seem the same as with buying and in a sense, it is. Before you get a horse, you need to keep in mind what you envision. Try not to focus too much on things like specific breeds and appearance (though these may factor in), but on the purpose. What do you want this horse to be, for you and your family? What is your skill level in riding and horse care? Does it need to be familiar with other animals and children?
These might seem obvious at first, but horses in rescues (where you’ll likely adopt them from) often have dark pasts and histories of abuse and neglect. You may find the horse of your dreams there — but maybe it won’t fit on every aspect. It’s nice to make a list for yourself and rank items according to whether they are essential or not.
Some things to take into consideration when adopting a horse:
- What is my skill level?
- Desired skill level for my horse?
- Can I take care of a horse with medical issues?
- Can I deal with a horse that suffered abuse?
- Prefered discipline should my horse be trained in?
- Average size and body type the horse should have?
- Personality traits do I want my horse to not have?
The options above are suggestions. There are many other things that might be important to you. Keep in mind you might not find a horse for adoption that fits all the criteria, so rank them according to your priorities.
Where do I adopt a horse from?
There are horse rescues aplenty out there, and a quick search could easily bring you many. Some places might specialize in rescuing certain breeds (in the United States, for example, you might find a lot of Mustang rescues). Other places might rescue abandoned horses or retired ones. Try to look for a place near you — or at least, one you can visit and be in contact with. Make sure to check their requirements for adoption and whether you meet these requirements.
Also, investigate the reputation and mission of the rescue. You might want to choose those that align with things you believe in over others. This includes how well they care for the horses in adoption, and whether they have a veterinarian (or a team) works with them to make sure the horses are well-cared and healthy. If you’re experienced, you can even adopt wild mustangs from the BLM and other such preservation centres and rescues. Be sure you can handle this, though. Wild horses are not for inexperienced horse owners
Most serious rescues will have a complete and honest assessment of the horse, what it can do and what a future owner would’ve to be to fit the horse well, so take that into consideration. Even if a rescue doesn’t have any horses that really stand out to you, leave your contacts. Rescues often get new horses, and might be one comes in that’s just the horse for you!
Pick your candidates
Okay, so you’ve chosen your rescues — time to visit and choose your candidates. Different horses may have different requirements, so even if they match your needs, you might not fill theirs. It’s certainly a two-way road, and being in contact with and feeling out the horse is important as well. Sometimes rushing it might result in having to return a horse that you cannot care for. As much as possible, try to get familiar with the horses.
Understand that if your horse suffered abuse, you will need to dedicate time and money to it. The horse’s physical condition won’t improve quickly, the horse might have psychological issues and bad behaviour, it really depends on the animal and your level of skill and whether you are willing to deal with this.
Once you’ve chosen a horse, call your vet and take him or her to see your horse. While you may be swayed by emotion, the vet will (hopefully) not be. This is important so he or she will be able to give you an honest assessment of the animal.
Fill out an application
First and foremost, read the horse adoption contract. Many will have conditions and stipulations on how and when you can keep your horse. Many will want to do periodic visits to guarantee the horse hasn’t gone to an abusive home. There may be other conditions there, so make sure to read them. Read it, and if you agree with all the terms, and you’re sure you’re ready to adopt a horse, it’s time to fill out your application.
This will require you to provide information about what you plan to do, where the horse will stay, among other things. Some horses, as explained above, will not be available for certain things, so you’ll need to keep that in mind as well. And, with horse adoption, it might be there are other candidates for that horse as well. Prepare yourself for the eventuality someone else got to your horse of choice first, or someone else might be a better match. Communication with the rescue certainly helps you to not be caught by surprise.
Have a support network and prepare for inspections
Good rescues will want to know who your vet, farrier and support network is so that they know you do have the skill, time and ability to care for their horse. Be sure to have a support network already set in place that is willing to recommend you. They will also want to know where the horse will stay, who owns the barn, etc., so have these things prepared and ready for inspection.
Bringing your adopted horse home
Congratulations, you’ve adopted your horse! Now it’s time to take it home. You’ll need to take care not to change its food too much, and help your horse to settle in. It might be tempting to overfeed a horse that’s skinny from abuse, for example, but be careful: too much can be as dangerous as not enough. A horse that went through neglect and abuse (which as mentioned above is not always the case) will need time to regain body mass and resistance, so be patient. Don’t think you can take an adopted horse and start trail riding and exercising the next day. It may not always be possible.
Some horses will also need time to integrate with your herd if you have other horses. It really depends on the individual, so keep that in mind as well.
What else can I do?
The process to adopt a horse may seem demanding, and in a sense, it has to be. We don’t want animals to be rehomed just so their new owner gives up and returns them a few years or even weeks later. Adoption is a big responsibility. So maybe you don’t want to adopt just yet — but you still want to help. What can you do?
Well, there are several ways to help. One is money. Donating to rescues you like and trust can help save lives. Some rescues will allow you to sponsor a horse, which is basically paying a fixed amount that will go to their upkeep. Many wild horse preservation centres allow you to do so. If you’re not sure you can handle adoption just yet, you can volunteer at a rescue — that way you can get familiar with the horses and the things you may expect from adoption.
So what do you think? Have you adopted a horse before? Are you considering horse adoption? Let us know in the comments below!