From my perspective, there are a couple of drivers for the overpopulation.
1 - Fewer people want horses, but horses live a long time. All the surveys I've seen indicate the horse owning population is graying fast. But horses bred in 1990 are mostly still alive - and no one wants them. Their current owners do not, and no one wants to buy a 20 year old horse.
The mustang given to us may be fairly typical. He was bought for the husband. The husband turned out to be highly allergic to horses - and I guess no one thought to have him RIDE horses before buying one. The wife wants another kid, and sees her two horses as taking up too much time. So she had two horses to get rid of, and the instructor who knew the horses described the other horse as worthless.
20 years ago, he might have gone to a youngster. But in 2011, most youngsters prefer the Internet to horses. And while I didn't want a third horse, this one looks like a darn good match for us.
2 - The economy and feed situation is squeezing out a lot of recreational owners. If the owners of our new mustang pony could afford hay and boarding fees, they might have held on longer. But two horses at $325/month each was also killing their budget. And with hay in this part of AZ pushing $20/80 lb bale, it is going to get worse!
Although I don't like the idea of slaughter, I don't see many options. The current market glut is driven in part by breeding taking place in the 90s. Lord willing, the new mustang will be with us for 15 years, and my other two even longer (2026). Anyone want to forecast the horse market in 2026?
A horse bred in 2003 - during what I believe was a good market - can live until 2030+. 9 years from now, in 2020, at age 18, who is going to want him?
The problem is stupid people buying horses without ever thinking about how long a horse lives, or the expense of keeping them. That was why I fought against getting horses in my family - I view a horse as a 25 year investment.
Happily, I enjoy the horses and trying to learn to understand them and work with them. But in a society where half of the population has credit card debt of $10K and more because they don't think in advance, how do you solve the problem of stupid people buying horses they are not committed to?
If I knew the answer, I'd deserve a huge award from the horse world! Pity that I don't know the answer, and just cringe at the result.