If you are looking for a free (or very inexpensive) horse,
one of the best places to look is rescue associations, or
animal rescue groups which also deal with horses. These associations
take on horses but have limited resources to take care of
them in terms of space (stalls, pasture), money (food, bedding,
etc.) and staff time (mucking out, general care). Consequently,
they are normally looking for good homes to pass the horses
onto, so that they can free up their scare resources to care
for others. Therefore, they will usually pass the horses on
for free, or for a nominal amount (to recover some of their
In addition to getting a horse very cheaply, you are also
doing a good deed by adopting the horse. In so doing, you
free up the rescue association’s resources, allowing
them to take on other animals.
Before they give a horse to a new owner, the association
will need assurances that the horse will be well taken care
of. You will need to show them that you have the facilities
(e.g. stall, pasture) to take care of the horse, or that you
will be renting adequate facilities (e.g. at a professional
horse boarding business). They will also want to be assured
that you have the time, money and commitment to take care
of the horse long term.
Before taking a horse from a rescue organization, you should
learn as much about the horse and its history as you can.
This will help you understand its capabilities (e.g. how much
training it has), physical health, any behavioral issues,
and any health concerns. In this regard, one should ask about
the results of any veterinary examinations and the experiences
of the staff when dealing with the horse while it was in their
In particular, one should ask why the horse has been taken
into care. If it was simply because the owner could no longer
keep it (e.g. due to financial difficulties) or lost interest
in it (a common situation with horses purchased for young
children), then the horse is probably sound. However, if the
horse was rescued because it was neglected or abused, then
it may have longer term physical or behavioral issues that
you need to be aware of. Likewise, if the owner gave up the
horse because it was sick or no longer suitable for riding.
One also needs to think carefully about the horse’s
current capabilities in terms of what you will use it for.
Many rescue horses are old; if you only want the horse as
a companion horse then this is not a problem but if you want
to ride it regularly then an elderly horse is likely unsuitable.
If the local rescue organizations don’t have a horse
that meets your requirements, the best solution is to wait.
Leave them your contact details and your requirements, after
assuring them that you will provide a good home for the right
horse. You may need to wait a few months, but with so many
horses being rescued for a variety of reasons, there is a
very good chance that one which meets your requirements will
Doug Stewart is the author of Free
Horses and owner of Horses
for Sale which not only sells horses but also provides
guides to horse care.