In 2007 it was estimated that approximately 170,000 horses become at-risk each year. In 2015, the number was even higher.

No one knows for sure how many horses are currently at-risk in the United States, but we do know that the number of at-risk horses at the time of this survey, exceeded the resources available to accommodate them.  In the UHC’s 2009 Unwanted Horse Survey, 63% of equine rescue/retirement facilities reported that they were near or at full capacity and, on average, turned away 38% of the horses brought to them.

Equine rescues which specialize in rehabilitating and re-homing horses at-risk play a major role in assisting these horses, but oftentimes there are not enough volunteers or placement opportunities and funding can be limited. It can cost in excess of $1,000 to restore a rescue horse back to health, in addition to its living expenses during its time at the rescue facility which can range from $1,800-$2,400 annually. Most equine rescue facilities rely on donations to fund these horses or pay for them out of pocket.

Although these horses are considered at-risk, or at a transitional point in their lives, there are options available to them:

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. Sometimes the horse is very much wanted, but an owner’s circumstances do not allow them to keep their beloved horse.  Other times, there may come a point in which a horse does not meet the owners expectations.   It is at this juncture that owners may need to make the decision to find other available options for their horse.

*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 UHC Safety Net Programs and Resources for more information.

It is important to note, that not all horses at-risk or in transition have suffered from neglect and abuse.  A child may have outgrown his or her pony or moved on to different interests and the parent now has to contend with the monthly care and expenses of a large animal in the backyard or at a boarding facility.  Another scenario is the horse that has been a great working animal throughout the years but is getting older and can no longer perform up to the standards that the rider needs, but may be suitable for another career. It is incredibly common for these reasons, that horses change hands frequently throughout their lives.

Most horse owners feel some moral obligation to make sure the horse they are selling or donating 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 suitable new ownership rather than have to euthanize the horse. On the other hand, if the horse is old and not in good health, then  the most humane decision may indeed be euthanasia.

In most cases, there are 4 options available to owners: sale, donation/gift, surrendering to a rescue/sanctuary, or 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.  Fore more information visit our Resources for Owners section.

Owning Responsibly:

The United Horse Coalition is a broad alliance of equine organizations that have joined together under the American Horse Council to educate the horse industry about the problem of horses at-risk. We seek to provide information for existing and prospective owners, breeders, sellers, and horse organizations regarding the long-term responsibilities of owning and caring for horses, as well as focusing on the opportunities available for these horses.

Our Mission

Through industry collaboration, the UHC promotes education and options for at-risk and transitioning horses.

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