A survey was conducted of the “unwanted horse” population in the United States, with a studied look at the role rescues and sanctuaries play.
In an article by Marie Rosenthal, MS for The Horse, she states there are approximately 100,000 “unwanted horses” ever year and rescues and sanctuaries help about 13,400 of them.
Kathryn Holcomb, MA, a PhD student at the University of California, Davis, who worked on the survey, says:
“Nonprofit equine rescue and sanctuary organizations have an important role to play in caring for and finding new homes for unwanted horses, but they are not a panacea (a cure-all) for the issue due to their limited capacity.”
The term “unwanted horse” is suggestive. There are, naturally, some horses who are no longer wanted. However, it is the nature of horse ownership that horses will likely pass through several hands throughout their lifetimes, for a variety of reasons. The survey itself explains the reasons most horses end up homeless are “financial hardship, owner’s physical inability or lack of time to care for the horses, and seizure by law enforcement agencies for alleged neglect or abuse.”
The article goes on to say:
But the best way to solve the problem is to limit the number of unwanted horses, Holcomb concluded, and suggested these methods:
- Reduce indiscriminate breeding;
- Educate new and existing owners on the responsibility associated with horses throughout their lives;
- Take responsibility for matching horses to rider ability and expectations;
- Use behavior science to reassess handling/training methods that might contribute to problems; and
- Use animal welfare science to ensure that the way we house, use, and care for our horses promotes their mental and physical well-being.