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Horse Adoption, Welfare, and Charities

It’s Adopt a Horse Month!

This May marks the third annual Adopt a Horse Month, spearheaded by the ASPCA Right Horse Program.

Even if you’re not ready to adopt, volunteer opportunities exist, and anyone can help spread the word to friends and family. Photo courtesy ASPCA Right Horse Program

In 2020, Cosmo was a small colt who was part of an entire abandoned herd of horses discovered near the Continental Divide in northern New Mexico. The New Mexico Livestock Board took the colt in and delivered him, along with his dam and two other fillies, to the New Mexico Horse Rescue at Walkin N Circles Ranch (WNCR) in Stanley, N.M.

Despite his rough beginning, Cosmo grew into a healthy gelding who, during his two years at WNCR, excelled at gaining trust in humans and learning to negotiate obstacles in-hand along with round pen exercises. As time passed, he became more respectful, attentive, and eager to learn, easily making him one of the most popular horses on the ranch.

Cosmo with his adopters, Lori & Sarah. Photo courtesy Lauri Michael

His successes led him to be one of the featured horses during the May 2022 ASPCA Adopt a Horse Month, where he caught the eye of mother and daughter volunteers Lori and Sarah. Sarah, new to volunteering for WNCR, was looking for her first horse. WNCR was one of 90 ASPCA Right Horse Adoption Partners and other equine rescues that participated in last year’s nationwide campaign.

Lauri Michael, President of the New Mexico Horse Rescue at WNCR, shares that the pair fell in love with Cosmo’s spunky, can-do attitude. His personality matched Sarah’s perfectly. She officially adopted Cosmo in August 2022, and today, Sarah looks forward to learning together with Cosmo. She has already hopped on him bareback, and once he’s saddle trained, she hopes to participate in local shows with him, as well as riding the many mountain trails that surround her home.

Adoption stories such as this one surround Adopt a Horse Month, a yearly ASPCA campaign from to celebrate and promote equine adoption.

The Roots of Adopt a Horse Month

First implemented in 2021 by the ASPCA Right Horse program, Adopt a Horse Month continues to grow and gain momentum. From the beginning to the present day, one important goal of the program has always been to help horses find good homes with the right person.

Last year, during the second annual Adopt a Horse Month, more than 44,000 people viewed adoptable horses on, the ASPCA’s online adoption platform for equines. Participating shelters reported an average increase in adoptions of 43 percent during the month of May.

Participating shelters reported an average increase in adoptions of 43 percent during the month of May 2022 during the second annual Adopt a Horse Month from ASPCA. Photo courtesy ASPCA Right Horse Program

From the start, May was chosen as one of the best times to promote adoptable horses to those seeking to add another horse to their family. After months of being cooped up during the winter, equestrians begin focusing on shows, trail rides, and other activities, making the month an ideal time to promote available horses, according to Christie Schulte Kappert, senior director of the ASPCA Equine Welfare Department.

More Than Adoption

However, Adopt a Horse Month is much more than the act of adoption. In the case of those not quite ready to adopt, it works to raise public awareness and encourage conversations about adoption.

“It’s not just about the horses that are adopted that month, but everybody who wants to be a part of the adoption movement,” says Schulte Kappert. “Equine shelters and rescues, riding instructors, other professionals, and people who just love horses want to help more horses find homes. If someone doesn’t think they are ready to adopt a horse right now, or maybe ever, they can still be talking about it with their friends or family and posting about it on social media, or posting about a horse they used to know that was adopted.”

Use the #adoptahorse hashtag on social media to spread the word about adoptable horse listings this May for ASPCA Adopt a Horse Month. Photo courtesy ASPCA Right Horse Program

Whether you are seeking to adopt, want to help spread the word, or both, increasing the number of adopted horses is a win-win for everyone. Adoption fees are a great value, and adopting a horse means becoming a part of an existing community that is always willing to help.

“I think that’s really what sets adoption, especially through an ASPCA Right Horse Adoption Partner, apart,” says Schulte Kappert. “It’s all about exactly what the [Right Horse] name says: matching the right horse with the right person.”

The Horse-Human Connection

Many potential adopters have a goal or a dream of adopting a horse.

“Sometimes they have a specific type of horse in mind, or they may not,” says Schulte Kappert. Potential adopters may walk onto a farm or ranch, and through working with skilled matchmakers, their goals and dreams can be matched with the right horse.

“Sometimes that horse looks pretty different than what they initially [wanted],” she continues. “But the connection between the horse and the person is what really matters.”

Schulte Kappert elaborates that beyond matchmakers, Adoption Partners have support systems in place to fill a variety of needs. For example, should a person want to adopt but they are not quite ready, volunteer opportunities exist, along with riding lessons on the horse they are considering adopting. These introductory steps can be taken while adoption preparations are being made.

Even after the horse is taken home, if something isn’t going quite as expected, trainers from the shelter can often go out to help the new owner over their hurdle.

“Our Adoption Partners build those positive relationships so that if anything unforeseen happens, they’ve got somebody they can lean on,” she says.

Though not the only option, Adoption Partners also offer a re-homing safety net should the adopter’s financial or life situation change, and they need to return the horse to the shelter.

The Bigger Picture

As feel-good as individual adoption stories may be, there is an even bigger picture to ASPCA’s Adopt a Horse Month and equine adoption as a whole.

“By adopting, you’re contributing to the overall picture of helping horses, because a stall opens up for the next horse in need,” says Schulte Kappert.

Beyond the act of adoption itself, when adopters talk or share about it, they’re spreading the word and encouraging their friends to do it.

“The more that grows, the next horse gets adopted … it’s a whole life-saving cycle,” she says. “Adopting is a really sustainable way to get a horse, and that’s what we want Adopt a Horse Month to celebrate.”

Getting Involved in Adopt a Horse Month

For shelters and rescues that want to participate, the ASPCA has plentiful resources to help get these organizations prepared and to market themselves to the community. There’s also assistance available on how to best showcase adoptable horses through photos and listings.

Anyone can search for an adoptable horse or share listings by visiting Schulte Kappert says that this alone is a powerful way to get involved with ASPCA’s Adopt a Horse Month, and imagines the success that could be achieved if anyone who wanted to participate could share one horse per week to help increase visibility.

“We hope that folks will share adoptable horses using the #adoptahorse hashtag,” she says. “We would love for everyone who loves horses to feel like they have some ownership over the month, and even if they’re not ready to adopt or never adopt, that they use their voice to help promote adoption.”

This article about Adopt a Horse Month from ASPCA Right Horse appeared in the May 2023 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Hope Ellis-Ashburn

Hope Ellis-Ashburn lives with her family on a century farm in the Sequatchie Valley of southeast Tennessee. Her latest book is Kimbrook Arabians: How an Unlikely Midwestern Couple Influenced an Ancient Breed.

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