HPS receives inquiries
from across the country concerning equine rescues. One of the questions we hear over and over is, “How can I tell
if I am dealing with a reputable organization?” Equine rescues come in all sizes, from the small back yard
rescue to the large rescues that have dealt with hundreds of horses. Whether you are looking to become a member or to
have a horse placed with you, your concerns will be similar.....ethics and integrity. Just because an organization is
a 501(c) 3 nonprofit does not mean they are on the up and up.
Depending on where
the rescue is located in the country, policies may differ to some extent. All good rescues retain title to the equine
and you will not get ownership. This is to protect the horse from future abuses in its life. Usually you will
donate or pay considerably less than the price of a similar horse on the open market. Each rescue has an agreement that
must be signed. The requirements in the contract will vary from society to society. Ask for a copy before the day of
taking possession. Are there any other terms and conditions that are not in the agreement?
Good rescues will not have unreasonable requirements, such as branding the
horse like the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does with the wild horses. In some parts of the country horses are still
maimed with brands. It is understandable why ranchers need to brand their cattle and often their horses that graze on
open lands. Thank heavens this primitive ritual of showing ownership is not prevalent in all parts of the country.
Unnecessary maiming of equines is a form of abuse. Anyone who says freeze branding does not hurt, I suggest they try it on
themselves, and they will never brand an animal they care about again. Some people will say that branding stops theft.
Not so, the thieves just cut the brand off the horse. Some rescues will require a chip to be placed in the horse’s
neck or have already done so before placement. Lip tattoos are also an acceptable way of identification. What
does the rescue require?
When you are interested in providing a home for a rescue horse, you need to
be careful. Do not allow yourself to be pressured into making a fast decision on a particular horse.
“You had better
make up your mind fast. We have other people interested in this horse.” A good rescue will encourage the
new family to spend as much time with the equine as needed to make sure this is going to be a good match. One short
visit is not enough! The person interested in the horse needs to spend time to make sure they will be able
to bond. Is the rescue willing to tell you everything about the horse and provide medical records before placement?
Would you not want to know if the equine had, foundered, coliced, had navicular, heaves or any other medical problem?
Do the caregivers have the knowledge to know if the horse has an existing problem? Ask what supplements and/or medication
the horse has been on and is on now. Make sure you understand the purpose of each one. Does the rescue follow
the laws of their state? Do they transport with all the paper work required… Coggin's test, health report, brand
inspections? Each state has its own regulations. You should learn what they are if you are unfamiliar with them.
What vaccinations has the horse had and when? If they were given when the horse was in a debilitated state, he may not
have formed the needed antibodies and you may need to vaccinate again. If you will be boarding your horse, check with
the owner of the stable for their required shoots. Have you been provided with a deworming schedule?
A rescue should take
great care to make sure you are selecting the right horse for you based upon your weight, riding discipline, experience, age,
intended use, and physical capacity. If you want a quiet trail horse, and they are showing you an untrained Thoroughbred
and you have never trained a horse… you should think twice. If you say you want a Paint and they say they have
just the horse for you without knowing you or your ability…. you should think twice. Does the rescue seem more interested
in placing horses or placing the right horse with the right family? What is the rescue’s return rate and the policy
on returns? Who is going to transport the equine, and will there be a charge for this? Is this part of the agreement?
We suggest you write in whatever is agreed that is verbal and not written in the agreement.
How does the rescue treat the equine? Do they use twitches, or would
they rather have the veterinarian quiet the horse with a mild sedative? (Twitches are on our “Wall of Shame”
in our tack room.) Do they place horses before rehabilitation from illness or starvation has been completed? If
you take home a horse like this, then you really do not know what you are getting. A horse can change completely in
personality once he is feeling better. Are you qualified to bring the horse back to health? Do you know what to
Does the horse come with instructions on riding once recovered from starvation?
Do you know how to return the horse to a healthy muscular condition? Do you know what exercise to provide and what will
be too much? A good rescue should provide much more information and help than the open market of purchasing a horse.
You should feel that they are an ongoing resource that you will be glad to have.
When you become a member of an organization your name is attached to everything
the society does. It is important that your philosophies are the same. Under what circumstances are equines euthanized?
Is it a money issue or a care issue? Should not a rescue go to the same lengths that a loving owner would for their
horse? A rescue should always typify the finest care of the animals entrusted to them. They should be a source
of the latest information in training and care. Do they train the hoses before leaving for new homes and what methods
do they use? Will you be trained in Natural Horsemanship? The facilities are not as important as the quality of
care the horses receive. Is there accountability of money? Are they a wealth of information? How is the
organization structured? The biggest concern, however, is the care of the equine.
Unfortunately there have been several abuse cases brought against so called
equine rescues and retirement homes. It is the fad of the times to open an equine rescue. Not all rescues
are what one would expect them to be. Nor do they have the humane calling to be doing the mission of rescue. Too
many times the leaders become more interested in power and control than the rescue of horses and proper care…. and then
the mission is lost! A few are just out and out frauds.