Should You Consider Adopting a Rescue Horse?
Thousands of horses in rescue facilities are in desperate need of a loving new home, and you’d like to give one a second chance. There are many benefits to adopting a rescue horse, but how can you be sure it’s the right choice for you?
The following information can help you determine whether adoption is the best way to find your new horse.
6 Reasons to Adopt a Rescue Horse
The rescue facility wants to ensure a good fit
A reputable rescue operation will be anxious for its horses to go to the right person. The animals have been through a lot of trauma already, and the facility won’t knowingly send an equine to the wrong home.
It’s not in the best interests of the horse or the reputation of the rescue group.
The rescue facility will take the horse back
If, despite the organization’s best attempts to match you with the perfect horse, the relationship doesn’t work out, you can return the horse. In fact, adoption rules usually insist on your giving the animal back in the event you don’t want it or can’t keep it any more.
For example, the guidelines of the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue state: “Horses adopted through our rescue can NEVER be sold, given away, leased or otherwise removed from the home we place them in except to be returned to the rescue.”
This is a huge advantage over buying a horse from a dealer or private owner. Sellers sometimes ask for right of first refusal, but most leave you with the burden of finding the horse a new home if you and he don’t get on.
You’re given a realistic assessment of the horse
Rescue horses are handled and, where appropriate, worked for several months before they are put up for adoption. This affords the operation plenty of time to assess the type of home he should go to.
Being keen to place horses with appropriate homes, rescue management will be honest with you about the horse’s temperament, state of health and the job for which he is suited. You will be made truthfully aware of the horse’s history to the best of their knowledge.
The horse is well-cared for and up-to-date on his shots
Reputable facilities not only carry out thorough health checks of their horses, they also give them all their vaccinations, float their teeth, trim their hooves and provide a negative Coggins.
According to Jose Castro, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, ABVP, clinical instructor for equine field services with the University of Tennessee’s Large Animal Clinical Services, “reputable rescues will provide prospective owners with the adoptable horse’s medical, dental, and farrier records.”
You should also receive contact information for those who have cared for the horse in the past.
The satisfaction of giving a horse a second chance
Many of these horses have suffered terrible abuse and neglect through no fault of their own, and deserve to find a forever home where they will be appreciated and well taken care of.
If you do find the right rescue horse, you’ll feel wonderful about giving him a new lease on life and the bond you form with him will be extra special because of his background.
Some facilities let you foster before you adopt
If you find a horse that you think will suit, but are still on the fence about adopting him, most facilities need foster homes for their horses.
Offer to foster a horse and take the time to find out if he’s the one you are looking for. Some rescues, such as Angels Haven Horse Rescue, offer pre-adoption leases for this purpose.
It is a great way to try out a horse, without feeling bad if you don’t gel with him.
4 Horse Adoption Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t adopt if you’re a beginner
Rescue horses often have health and/or behavioral issues. They need an experienced horse person to handle and retrain them and a rookie rider is not the person to do this. Katherine Blocksdorf explains this in her article, Buying a Rescue Horse.
A beginner is likely to run into problems which can lead to a dangerous situation. Such horses are best left to more seasoned equestrians.
Don’t listen to your emotions
Beware of falling in love at first sight with a rescue horse or feeling sorry for him. This is the quick path to acquiring an unsuitable horse. Take a sensible horse person with you to stop you doing this!
The rescue staff will try to keep you on track, but a friend or trainer whom you trust, who knows your temperament and how well you ride, is the ideal companion to bring along to your appointment at the rescue facility.
Not checking out the rescue facility
Do your homework before approaching a rescue organization about a horse. Jose Castro, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, ABVP, says that “it’s critical that prospective owners ensure that rescues offering horses for adoption have a good reputation for making successful matches.”
Talk to people who’ve had dealings with them. Dr. Jennifer Williams says, “It’s a good sign when an adopter acquires a second horse from the organization or continues to volunteer.”
Not understanding the level of help the horse may need
Even if you’re an experienced horse person, you need to be sure that you have the skills to deal with any behavioral problems your new horse may have. He will have undergone rehabilitation at the rescue barn, but will likely need you to continue working on his issues.
Take the time to watch him being trained by the rescue staff, ask lots of questions, and be honest about your own ability to deal with the horse you’re interested in.
There are many advantages to adopting a horse. You’ll receive plenty of information and support from the rescue organization, which is keen for you to have a successful relationship with your new equine. And you can return the animal if things don’t work out.
Once you do find the right equine, the rewards will be huge – for both of you.
Resources & Further Reading
http://horses.about.com/od/buyingyourfirsthorse/a/buyingarescuehorse.htm On the dangers of rescuing a horse as your first horse ever
http://www.horses-and-horse-information.com/horserescue.shtml Good source of information about various aspects of horse rescue and adoption
http://www.wvhorserescue.org/guidelines.html Very good rescue info