24 Questions to keep in mind if you need to rehome your horse.


By: United Horse Coalition

For a variety of reasons, there comes a time in many horse owners’ lives in which they are no longer able, physically, or financially to provide care for their horse(s). Sometimes the horse is very much wanted, but the owner’s circumstances do not allow them to keep their beloved equine. It is important to note that not all horses at risk or in transition have suffered from neglect and abuse.  In fact, this is a common misconception.

Owners may become ill or have a change in their financial capability to care for a horse. A rider may outgrow their horse both in size and skill, and, in turn, a horse may also be better suited for a career change depending on age, temperament and soundness. It is incredibly common for various reasons for a horse to change hands frequently throughout their life, oftentimes through no fault of the horse.   According to data in the Equine Welfare Data’s (EWDC) third report chronicling 2019, 52% of horses entering shelters come directly through owners in need seeking to surrender their horse. Of those owners, 77% are requested surrender specifically for personal financial or health related reasons.

(If you find yourself in a situation in which you want to keep your horse, but need temporary assistance until you can get back on your feet physically or financially, there are various safety net programs available to help. Please visit the United Horse Coalition Safety Net Programs and Resources for more information.)

Horse owners should feel a moral obligation to make sure their horse in transition ends up receiving proper care and treatment.

Legally, as a seller, you must share anything important you know about the horse’s behavior and physical condition. If the horse is healthy and of a reasonable age, it is always best to find a suitable new vocation, owner, or home, rather than have to euthanize the horse. On the other hand, if the horse is old and not in good health, or suffering, then the most humane decision may indeed be euthanasia – this is a decision between you and your veterinarian.

In most cases, there are four options available to owners who need to rehome their horse:

  • Sale
  • Donation/gift
  • Re-homing to a rescue/sanctuary
  • Euthanasia

The options available to you may be based on the health, soundness, age, training level, and temperament of your horse. Some options have strict criteria for qualification; not every horse is suitable for every job. For more information visit our Resources for Owners section.

Finding a new home for a horse is not always an easy job and various equine facilities play a role in providing care or finding new owners for horses. Whether an owner is searching for the perfect retirement farm, looking to find their horse a new job in therapeutic riding or in the mounted patrol, or if they are in need of placement with a rescue or sanctuary, there are questions every owner should ask before giving up care and control of their horse.

In order to ensure that your horse is placed within the best-suited organization, please consider asking the organization(s) the following:

  1. Does the organization subscribe to accepted guidelines for operating such facilities, such as the “Care Guidelines for Rescue and Retirement Facilities” prepared by the American Association of Equine Practitioners?
    • For Thoroughbreds, is the organization accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance?
  2. Is it an entity exempt from federal tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code?
  3. Does it file IRS Form 990 and forms required by the state? Will the facility provide copies?
  4. Does it have a mission statement and a board of directors? Who are they?
  5. How long has the organization been operating?
  6. If it is a facility that will use the horse, how will it be used?
  7. Will the facility allow you to walk the property, including entering barns?
  8. Does the facility appear to have adequate feed (hay, pasture, grain) for the number of horses on the property?
  9. What are the physical characteristics of the facility, including barns, pastures, shelters, and fencing? Does the facility have ample room for horses to graze and/or move about? Do the horses have adequate shelter?
  10. Is the organization’s agreement with the owner for free lease or donation or something else?
  11. Will the horse stay at the facility or be placed into foster care? If the facility uses foster care, how are foster homes screened?
  12. Does the organization have an agreement regarding the use, boarding, or care of the horse?
  13. If it is an organization that adopts horses out, what are the requirements for adoption? Does the facility follow up with the new owners to ensure the horse is being properly cared for?
  14. Does the organization have a policy against breeding or restrict the horse’s use in any way?
  15. What is the organization’s post-adoption policy on breeding and use?
  16. If this is an adoption facility, are stallions gelded upon entry and before adoption?
  17. What becomes of the horse when the adopter or the user no longer wants the horse?
    • Will the organization automatically take the horse back?
  18. Will the organization advise you before your horse is transferred to a new owner?
  19. Can the original owner ask for the horse back?
  20. Will the facility provide routine and emergency veterinary, dental, and farrier care?
  21. Does the facility provide training/re-training for the horse?
  22. Can owners visit their horse at the facility?
    • Can owners visit the horse at an adoption home?
  23. Have any welfare charges been brought against the organization?
  24. Does the facility euthanize horses that cannot be placed? If so, will the facility notify the owner beforehand?

For more information on acquiring assistance, contact the United Horse Coalition.

Related External Resources:

Is this Rescue A Legitimate Place? – Heart of Phoenix

Additional Educational Resources