Adopt a Rescue Horse

Learn the right way to adopt a rescue horse with these 10 tips. Plus: Learn about the A Home for Every Horse program.
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Learn the right way to adopt a rescue horse with these 10 tips. Plus: Learn about the A Home for Every Horse program.

Horse rescues can be great place for you to find a special equine partner. Plus, you’ll be giving your adopted horse a second chance at life.Well-run rescues will want to send an agent to visit the location you plan to keep your horse to verify that you have a safe, suitable facility.

Horse rescues can be great place for you to find a special equine partner. Plus, you’ll be giving your adopted horse a second chance at life.

Thinking of adopting a rescue horse? Here are 10 tips to help you through the adoption process.

1. Consider all costs. The adoption fees may be low, but the cost of owning and caring for a horse is ongoing. Before you adopt, create a budget that includes all horse-related expenses. To determine your expenses, talk to local horse owners, farriers, and veterinarians.

2. Be prepared. Well-run rescues will want to send an agent to visit the location you plan to keep your horseto verify that you have a safe, suitable facility. For information on equine housing, go to EquiSearch.com (HorseLink’s sister site), and search for “Horsekeeping,” “Barns,” and “Pastures.”

3. Find a reputable rescue organization. A reliable rescue will take good care of the horses, and be honest with you about their health and training. You can find approved horse rescues through the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

4. Don’t fall for a pretty face. Choose the horse that matches your skill level, even if he doesn’t look like what you imagined. Better to have a horse that you feel safe with than one that looks great standing in the pasture. The rescue staff can help you make this decision.

5. Rely on an experienced horse person. If you’re a beginner or intermediate rider, employ the help of a trained equine professional or knowledgeable horse person. This person and the rescue staff will be able to help you decide if a horse is a good fit for your riding ability and personality.

6. Be ready to ride. A reputable horse rescue will expect you to demonstrate your riding ability at two adoption appointments. This enables the staff to make sure you and the horse are suitable for each other. So, be sure to wear appropriate riding pants and boots, and don’t forget your ASTM-approved, SEI-certified riding helmet.

7. Schedule a pre-purchase exam. When you’ve found a horse you think you’d like to adopt, schedule a pre-purchase examination with an equine veterinarian. The scheduling and cost are your responsibility. If the horse passes, continue with the adoption process, and take the horse home.

8. Be patient. Keep in mind that rescue horses may’ve experienced some kind of neglect and/or abuse. It takes patience, perseverance, and confidence to rehabilitate a horse that has lost trust in humans. Give your horse plenty of time to learn new things. Stay calm, and remember to breathe.

9. Bond. Spend time bonding with your new equine partner through grooming, ground work, treats, and pats. Give him several weeks to adjust to his new home and routine. His past experiences may cause him to be on edge in a new environment, and he needs your confidence to help him through.

10. Stay flexible. Keep in mind that horse rescues often retain ownership of the adopted horse for a certain period of time. This allows the organization to take the horse back if you, or the rescue, decide things aren’t working out. Expect a follow-up visit a few months after you’ve adopted your horse to make sure you’re both thriving. Take this opportunity to ask the rescue agent any health or behavioral questions you might have.

Cate Lamm, The Trail Rider’s editorial assistant, has devoted a large part of her life to helping horses. As a staff member of Colorado Horse Rescue for 10 years, she served as head of the adoption committee andacting as general manager and worked as a rehabilitation trainer. Lamm has owned a number of her own rescue horses; her latest rescue is a special Clydesdale-Thoroughbred cross that was bound for auction and is now learning dressage and jumping.

A Home for Every Horse

If you want more information on rescue horses or you want to locate a rescue near you, please check out AHomeForEveryHorse.com. Equine.com and the Active Interest Media Equine Network have joined forces with the American Horse Council's Unwanted Horse Coalition to launch A Home for Every Horse Project.

This project helps find homes for America's 170,000 to 200,000 horses in need of care and shelter.
Here's how it works:

  • Begin the search for your next equine partner at AHomeForEveryHorse.com. You can search horses waiting for homes at nonprofit shelters across the country. Browse by rescue horse, or find rescue organizations in your area.
  • Visit the site's "Services" section to learn about your local rescue organizations. Find out how you can volunteer, donate, or simply spread the word.
  • Look for upcoming stories on EquiSearch.com related to horse rescue.


If your 501(c)(3) rescue organization would like to join the Home For Every Horse Project, call (866) 467-7323. Equine.com is a part of Active Interest Media Equine Network.