As we know there are many horse rescues in operation, both
good and bad. It can be difficult to know whether a rescue
is suitable for placing your older or unsound horse. By following
these guidelines you will gain an insight into the basic things
a rescue should provide to its animals and to its clients.
The farm should be clean and well maintained. That means
that the stalls that are being used should be well bedded
(any bedding is fine shavings/straw/etc) and be well mucked
on a regular basis. Horses that are kept out of doors should
have adequate paddock space, or be supplemented with hay.
They should all have water at all times both indoors and out.
Fencing should be safe and adequate to keep the horses where
they belong. No barbed wire or other truly unsafe fencing
should be allowed. There should be signs that the owner is
making efforts to keep the fencing and barn maintained even
if there are things that are evidently in need of repair (hey
– we all have fence rails needing repair). The fields should
be free of dangerous equipment and other items likely to cause
injury to a horse. If horses are routinely kept out of doors
24/7 there should be some kind of run-in shelter available.
Feed and hay should be stored in a safe, clean environment.
Grain should be contained in a way that discourages snacking
by escapee horses and keeps rodents etc out of it (as much
as possible – old freezers are a great way to do this – cheap
and easy to get a hold of too). A variety of feed suited to
the needs of the various horses at the rescue should be available.
A reasonable supply of medication should be available on hand
(those medications the rescue owner knows how to use correctly),
especially penicillin, bute, worming paste, and banamine (anyone
can learn to do intramuscular shots). If a horse needs special
medication it should be evident that the medication is on
hand and that the rescue knows how to use it.
The horses should be well cared for and happy in their home.
Horses with special needs should show signs of having those
special needs cared for. The horses should show evidence of
having been groomed on a reasonably regular basis. Their feet
should be in reasonable condition, showing evidence of regular
hoof care (although some horses’ feet will obviously need
more care than others). Rescues who have been in residence
for an extended time should be in good weight, good health
(with the exception of pre-existing conditions), and show
evidence of regular care. New rescues of course will be more
varied in condition. A rescue that routinely rescues from
auctions or other questionable sources should have an appropriate
If the rescue is marketing riding horses there should be
an appropriate area set aside for clients to try the horses.
This area should be clear of obstacles that could cause injury
to horse or rider. Ideally it would be flat, fenced and a
minimum of 100’x50’, but that would be pretty flexible. The
riding area should be easily cleared of horses (if it is a
turn-out area) so that riders can ride without the interference
of other horses in the ring loose with them (I’ve seen it
and ridden in it before…).
If the rescue accepts stallions there should be safe, well
constructed stalls (or at least one stall) available for stallion
use. There should be at least one individual turn-out paddock/field
with no shared fencelines and preferably electric wire for
the stallion(s) to go out in. The rescue owner should have
had some experience with stallions in the past before accepting
them at their rescue.
If the rescue accepts mares in foal there should be an adequate
place set aside for the mare(s) to foal. This could be a foaling
stall (no smaller than 12’x12’, preferably bigger – especially
for draft mares), or a foaling paddock (a small grass paddock,
very lightly used, mucked daily when in use). There should
also be a small paddock set aside (could be the foaling paddock
– or could be the stallion paddock) for the mare and foal
to be turned out individually for the first two weeks so they
can safely bond before returning to the herd.
The person managing the rescue should be an experienced horse
person with preferably over 5 years of horse experience. This
experience should be varied if possible in more than one segment
of the horse industry. If they are accepting stallions the
manager (or an employee) should be experienced with stallions.
If they are accepting mares in foal or youngstock the manager
(or an employee) should have some experience with mares and
The horse rescue owner/manager should be able to provide
references both horsey and non-horsey. If the rescue adopts
out, at least one reference should be from a prior adoptive
home. References from the rescue’s regular vet and farrier
should be required.
Lydia V Kelly is a writer for www.HorseClicks.com,