Health Care

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Key Considerations When Rehoming a Horse

If you are considering adopting a horse, here is some step by step guidance on what to consider so you can be fully prepared.

Whether you are looking to adopt a horse from a rescue facility or provide an off-the-track thoroughbred (OTT TB) with a new home, both require extensive planning and consideration.

Being honest with yourself about your own capabilities and the care that these horses require will ensure that an appropriate match occurs.

Below are some guidelines so that you can be fully prepared when the time comes to rehome a horse.

What Would You Like To Do With The Horse?

One of the first questions to ask yourself is "what will the horse's job be?"

Will you be giving a horse a paddock home without a need to be ridden? A horse with a manageable injury that is paddock sound with a horse-friendly disposition may well be the perfect companion paddock mate for other horses.

Or will you be wanting a horse that you can take for quiet trail rides? Those with a few niggles may cope just fine with additional joint supplements and the occasional non-steroidal medication to assist.

For those who wish to take on a horse for more competitive riding such as barrel racing, show-jumping, dressage or eventing, you'll need a horse that is very sound and fit for purpose.

Maybe you're looking for a pony for your children or grandchildren to learn on? This is when a bomb-proof temperament is an absolute must.

What Can You Handle?

The type of horse that you ultimately acquire will need to be one that suits not only your experience with horses, but also your budget, your time and the availability of assistance from the network of horse people around you.

  • Be honest with yourself about how much hands-on experience you have with horses:
    • complete beginner
    • pony-club/trail-rider
    • experienced
    • have trained young or in-experienced horses
  • How much time do you have to commit to riding and caring for a horse or pony?
    • can attend the horse daily
    • will need to organise for other people to attend the horse daily
  • What is your monthly budget for on-going care?
    • grazing, feed
    • vet care, vet dentist, farrier - maintenance
    • vet care - an emergency fund
    • insurance
    • carer if you can't be present
    • rugs, saddlery
    • trainers

Where To Find Rescue Horses For Adoption?

There are many ways to find horses that are available for adoption. 

Many horse welfare rescue groups advertise via Facebook and Google.

If it's an OTT TB that you are after, most State racing clubs have an equine welfare code where they facilitate the rehoming of retired racehorses. The racing clubs will be able to assist you to find reputable resellers.

On occasion, you may find that a horse owner is looking to rehome one of their own directly. This may be due to changes in their ability to care for the horse.

Many racehorse trainers will also look to rehome directly from their care.

It's important to assess the operation/owner of the horse as much as you may assess the horse itself.

  • does the rescue/trainer/owner have a good reputation for caring and rehoming quality horses with full disclosure of issues such as disease, injury or behavioural problems? 
  • are charities/rescues registered as not-for-profit? 
  • do they rehabilitate or retrain the horses prior to adoption?
  • will they ride and handle the horse for you prior to you trying the horse yourself?
  • will they allow you to ride the horse prior to purchase?
  • are you able to return the horse within a certain time period if things don't work out?

Assessing A Horse's Suitability For You

Many of the more professionally run rehoming programs are administered by very experienced horse people who can assist to find you the perfect equine partner. 

They can often assess your abilities very quickly and will present a list of horses that will suit you well. 
That said, it's always a good idea to bring an experienced friend or trainer with you when trying these horses.

Deals can go sour when there is a mix of unrealistic expectations combined with a lack of experience. 
It also needs to be remembered that many rescues and rehoming programs may not know the history of the horse.

These poor horses may have suffered from neglect, starvation, injury or cruelty. 
For this reason, it is always wise to invest in having an equine veterinarian perform a pre-purchase examination.

The equine vet will not only assess the horse's physicality but also its temperament and suitability to perform the job that will be asked of it.

This lowers the risk of disappointment when you find that the horse has an issue that you or the rescue was unaware of.

Once you've found the ideal horse for you, don't forget to complete the change of ownership form and consider the purchase of equine insurance.

Management Of Your New Rescue Horse

Once you have purchased your new horse then it's time to transport it to its new home.

Don't forget that when introducing a new horse to a property it's important that it goes into quarantine.

This helps prevent any potential disease outbreaks and ensures that you don't introduce new worm burdens to the property. 

Some thought needs to be given to the new horse's immediate needs.

What is the current climate temperature? Will they need extra rugs or will they need to be clipped if it's too hot?

It's important to provide electrolytes to all horses, but more so those that are performing and sweating a lot.

Remember that abrupt changes to diet can wreak havoc with gut health as well as temperament. 

Make slow changes to nutrition so that you avoid stomach upsets and colic. This is particularly important if you plan to feed grains. Ensure that you are feeding at least 1.5-2% of the diet as roughage.

Does the adoptee have any health conditions that require special management? This could include conditions that require a special diet, farrier or vet care such as:

  • Laminitis
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Old age

A senior horse or one with signs of arthritis might benefit from osteo-arthritis supplements or anti-inflammatories. You may also need to adjust feeding especially if the horse lacks teeth.

Thankfully many unwanted horses are adopted each year and given the life they deserve.

It is important that you plan for horses to live until their 30s.

About the author

Dr Leigh Davidson BVSc, BApplSc

Director at Your Vet Online

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