Jose Castro, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, ABVP, clinical instructor for equine field services with the University of Tennessee's Large Animal Clinical Services, says it’s critical that prospective owners ensure that rescues offering horses for adoption have a good reputation for making successful matches.
Castro said reputable rescues will provide prospective owners with the adoptable horse's medical, dental, and farrier records. They will also provide prospective owners with contact information for veterinarians and other professionals who have provided care for the horse.
"Horse rescuers can't make it without relying on donations and lots of volunteers, so there won't be any foul play at a rescue with a good (adoption) track record," Castro said.
He also recommends potential owners do their homework before adopting a horse.
First, adoptive owners should consider a horse's age, breed, and skill level before they adopt. Likewise, it’s key to decide whether the adopted horse will be a pasture pet or a riding horse, Castro said.
“You have to make sure that the horse and the owner are well-matched,” he said.
Once those decisions are made, Castro recommends that adoptive owners keep an open mind.
"Don't say 'I want a 10-year-old gray mare,' " Castro said. "Look at all kinds of horses. Then spend as much time with the horse as you can."
He also recommends prospective owners bring along an experienced trainer when they do find an adoptable horse they think is suitable.
"A trainer will look at a horse with his brain and his eyes, not his eyes and his heart," Castro said. "Bear in mind that many of these horses have been mentally and physically abused in some way, so the adoptive owner is going to have to spend some money on training."
Finally, Castro reminded prospective owners that adopting a horse is a long-term decision.
"Keep in mind that horses are living longer, so the decision you make now will affect your life for 10, 15, 25 years," he said. "At the end of the day, you have to be happy with the horse and the horse has to be happy with you."