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Adopting a Horse – Is It Right For You?

By: Dr. Andrew Hoffman

Read By: Pet Lovers
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An essential part of any rescue effort is to find new homes for equines in need. The big question is whether you should adopt a rescued horse. Here are some important facts, figures and opinions that will help you decide whether or not adoption is the right choice for you, and if so, how to go about it.

Should You or Shouldn't You?

Do you definitely want to be a long-term horse-owner? Have you spent plenty of time caring for horses and are you willing to make arrangements constantly to provide for his care and safety?

Horses cost money – even adopted horses. Don't adopt a horse if you can't afford one. While you may think adoption is the inexpensive means to obtain an equine, remember that their needs are expensive: boarding, feed, medical bills, shoeing, and tack and equipment.

For what purpose will you use your horse? Are you looking for a trail horse, a hunter/jumper, a dressage prospect? At what level do you ride? Speak with the shelter owner to make sure your needs and expectations match your prospective horse.

When you look to adopt a horse, be less concerned with breed, color, size and sex of the equine than with his temperament and how he matches your riding ability. Those attributes are more important for long-term compatibility.

First see the related PetPlace.com articles: "The Right Breed for You"; "What it Costs to Own a Horse"; and "Equine Insurance." For a comprehensive book, you may want to look at Your First Horse: How to Buy and Care for Your First Horse. Jacqueline Dwelle BHSAI.

With the right questions asked early, you will be able to decide if adoption is the right decision for you and your family.

Facts and Figures

For a current snapshot of the adoption process once equines arrive at a shelter, consider these facts and figures.

More than half of all sheltered equines are adopted after an average shelter stay of about 5½ months, and they are most commonly adopted out to people intending to use them for pleasure riding.

Adoption fees are an important component of shelter income. The average high adoption fee is $865.00 and the average low adoption fee is $289 per equine. Many adoption fees are nominal. It largely depends on how well subsidized the shelter operation is.

Almost all shelters follow up and visit the adopted equines and their adopters at the new home. Most of their adoptions are successful, meaning that horses are not returned to the shelter for any reason.

Chief among the reasons that animals are returned are the owner's inability to care for the animal properly or the adoption not being a suitable match between animal and adopter.

Half of all shelters have policies requiring that the shelter be notified of a change of ownership. Another 40 percent of shelter respondents do not allow the transfer of the animal and/or retained ownership. They require that the horse be returned to the shelter should the adopter no longer be able or willing to care for him.

Less than 10 percent of shelter respondents do not require notification in case of change of adopters.

Shelter owners face a stigma attached to animals coming from shelters. The stereotype of a rescued equine is that of a broken-down horse. If the general public is made more aware of how shelters function and the valuable horses they offer, they may come to realize that many rescued horses are successfully rehabilitated and can flourish as athletes. Shelter respondents have reported that some of their horses even go on to compete successfully.

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