Adopting a horse, things to consider
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."
I would add that when adopting a horse (or any animal) have it set in your mind that there WILL be issues. It will not be all sunshine and lollipops. If things go great you will be all the happier, if they don't you will be prepared to deal with it.
Also set aside extra funds every month for your horse in case of emergencies like health issues that require big outlays of cash or a financial hiccup in your own life.
All too often we hear the term "rescue" bandied about when it was merely a purchase. Inexperienced horse people get the idea they can offer a better home and care and before long, with lack of leadership, it becomes a dismal failure. Then these same people will tell us how the horse was abused because it does this and that, without witnessing abuse. Dobbin has been testing and finds out what works to his advantage. In most cases, the rescue rescued these and when duly cared for and worked with are put up for sale to make room for new ones. These horses are no longer in need of rescuing.
I honestly believe that the problem with rescues are that people aren't educated fully to what a rescue animal needs. I've worked with multiple rescues for multiple species and there IS mental damage. Not every animal can recover 100%, a lot of them can recover to about 75-85% if they're lucky.
My gelding is an honest to god rescue horse. He was nearly beaten to death at two years old until we intervened and physically pulled him away from his abuser. Whenever people find out he's a rescue horse they immediately want to go out and rescue one but have no idea that it takes ten times more training, effort and dedication to get little or no results. It's taken us about ten years to get our gelding to where he is now, which is unfortunately a seventeen year old gelding with the mentality of a three year old.
I have had several clients who get a rescue animal and cannot fathom why it's 'mean' or 'insane'. I then have to explain to them that it takes a lot more effort than most rescue organizations put into their training to make them productive members of society. Often sadly enough, I see the horses go back into a bad situation because the people become frustrated and loathe the horse.
I really wish rescue organizations would limit their strict policies and focus more on educating prospective owners. Seems to me that that would prevent the animal from going back into a bad situation. IMO
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