How to Help A Rescue (when you’re a horse owner not interested in adopting a horse)

How to Help A Rescue (when you’re a horse owner not interested in adopting a horse)

I once had a self-proclaimed “equine professional” look me in the eye and tell me that cleaning stalls for a rescue really didn’t matter because they “weren’t my horses and it wasn’t my problem.”

I beg to differ. As someone who has owned horses, mentored kids who love horses, trained more than a few, trail ridden, shown, ridden around with the farrier to learn, taken classes to learn more, participated in clinics and taken lessons – it is my problem. Anything that impacts the perception and well-being of horses in our community is our problem as horse people. When situations of neglect, abuse, and abandonment are still prevalent in our area, it has a direct impact on the horse community. When someone in our town decides to stop feeding their horses, turn their horses loose in the state park, breed 20 horses on their 5-acre mini-farm, or starts dumping their broodmares at the auction, it takes up time, money, resources, energy, human capital, compassion, sweat, and tears for those who step in to clean up the mess – and adds a little more to the way outsiders perceive the “horse world” to decide whether or not it’s something they want to get into wholeheartedly.

If you’re a horse person and you want to help a rescue, there are a few simple things you can do:

  1. Train your broodmares. Unless she has an injury that prevents her from being ridden, there is absolutely no reason in this day and age – where young, fit, registered horses end up run through the sale barn selling directly to the kill buyer for meat – that your broodmare should not be proven in the discipline you’re breeding babies out of her for before she is ever even considered to be breeding quality. None.
  2. Have a plan.
    1. If you’re breeding, that means a plan for the mares when they age out, and a plan for the babies that you create.
    2. Plan for training your young horses. You might not be their only home, even if you plan to keep them. Finding homes for “pets” – especially as they age – gets harder and harder. (“Companion” horses have historically stayed in rescue for 2-3 years before finding homes).
    3. If you have a kid that shows, that means having a plan for that first packer-pony’s safe retirement when your child is ready to step up to a younger, fancier mount.
    4. Consider your animals in your will. I know many folks who worry what will happen to their horses, dogs, cats, and other 4-legged family members if something happens to them. Put it in writing and tell your family so that you can be confident that if your animals outlive you, they will be safe and happy.
  3. Disease panel test before you breed. See #1. There is no reason to create foals that carry on undesirable, life-altering conditions that can be eliminated in one generation of educated breeding.
  4. Feed and care for your horses. Sell, adopt out, or reach out for assistance before you get in over your head and can’t care for them anymore. It’s much easier to assist when a horse is healthy than when he needs 6 months of refeeding and rehabilitation before we know if he’ll even survive.
  5. Volunteer with and donate to your local rescue. Chances are you have a skill that’s needed, and your $5 or $10 per month goes a lot farther than you might think.
  6. Realize that euthanasia is not a dirty word. It’s not a rescue’s job, an auction’s job, a kill buyer’s job or your neighbor’s job to take a horse that’s older, injured, or no longer performing at a level it used to. It’s your job as the caretaker to ensure safety for life, and sometimes that means that the comfort level of the animal has declined to the point that crossing the Rainbow Bridge is the best gift we can offer.