Help Unwanted Horses


Neglected horseYour input on the problem of unwanted horses is needed. The issue of unwanted horses is being studied through a nationwide initiative of the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC) with help from equine associations, veterinarians, breeders, state and local law enforcement, horse owners, rescue/retirement facilities, and other facilities using horses. The first step is an online survey—and everyone with an interest in the welfare of horses is encouraged to respond at (Please note: as of February 9, 2009 the survey is closed and no longer available.)

With tens of thousands of unwanted, neglected and abandoned horses in the United States, some say the problem is a fast-growing epidemic. However, much remains unknown. Currently, there are few documented facts about the accurate number of unwanted horses, their age, sex, breed, recent use, value or what happens to them in the long run.

“Although there are numerous media reports and much anecdotal evidence of a growing problem with unwanted horses, there have been no studies or surveys done to attempt to document it,” says Jay Hickey, president of the American Horse Council (AHC), the national association that represents all segments of the horse industry in Washington, D.C. The UHC operates with the AHC. “The downturn in the economy, rising costs of hay, the drought that has affected many parts of the United States, the costs of euthanasia and carcass disposal, and the closing of the nation’s slaughter facilities have all made the problem worse. But no one knows its magnitude. That’s why the first step toward a solution is to gather and examine the facts. The goal of this survey is to get the input, observations, opinions and suggestions from anyone and everyone involved with horses.”

The Study on Contributing Factors Surrounding the Unwanted Horse Issue will be instrumental in filling factual gaps with actual data on:

 • Awareness of the unwanted horse problem and perceived trends in recent years
 • Level of concern
 • Factors contributing to the problem
 • Direct and in-direct experience with the issue
 • Actions taken by owners
 • Expectations about responsibility and assistance
 • Solutions

Phase I of the study is an online survey of people most affected by and involved with the issue of the unwanted horse. An independent research firm developed the questionnaire and is hosting the online survey site. The firm will also tabulate and analyze responses, and provide a full report.

A comprehensive view of the problem depends on representation from all corners of the horse industry, according to Dr. Tom Lenz, chairman of the UHC. “To ensure the broadest possible participation, we’re working to involve a variety of individuals, associations, state and local agencies, and equine-related companies to actively encourage their constituencies to take the survey and voice their opinions.”

The American Association of Equine Practitioners defines the term “unwanted horse” as, “Horses which are no longer wanted by their current owner because they are old, injured, sick, unmanageable, fail to meet their owner’s expectations, or the owner can no longer afford or is incapable of caring for them.” This definition, according to Lenz, is a starting point to discover what’s causing the problem and what can be done to correct it.

“Regardless of how horses reached this state, every owner—and the equine industry at large—has a responsibility to ensure that everything possible is done to guarantee the humane care and treatment of unwanted horses,” Lenz says. “Our message now is to please go to, and provide us with feedback. Answers will be confidential. More important, this feedback will be invaluable in developing a strategy to solve the problem.”


  1. The government is thinking whether of not to destroy any BLM horse that they think is useless. (If a horse looked at but not adopted 3 times its useless by government standards) HOW RIGHT IS THAT!!!

  2. Although I do not believe in strike 3 and you are out, I do realize that some of these horses are not safe. I personally adopted a wild mustang mare and her foal out of Wyoming a couple of years ago. I had her professionally trained by a trainer that was very good with mustangs, I saw what he had done with others, unfortunately after a while with this horse it was determined by a vet that she had gotten into loco weed in the wild and she had “flash backs”. While being ridden she would trow you over the barn she bucked so high. The vet determined that she was very dangerous and eventually she was put down. This was a rare instance. I think there needs to be a better way to determine what to do with them.

  3. I think that they should have a lower fee on adopting those horses. If they were cheaper to adopt I think more people would adopt them.

  4. Hello
    Unwanted horses are a big problem due to our economy mostly. Our feed prices keep rising, hay shotages every were, people being unemployed and some people just dont to even try to care for a horse. I know raising, breeding, training, and caring for a horse is hard but it is well worth it. Horses have helped us over the years. Its time that people start realizing what they are doing and work together to save these animals. Horses should not be put down due to lack of handling, training, things such as that. Its not the horses fault. If i had the space and equipment i woul train problem horses in my area for little of nothing just to prove any horse can be trained.

  5. I don’t see why people just let someone have them that can take care of them and love them. People makes me sick on how they do these poor animals and when they say that they are unwanted that is a lie because there is lots of people that would love to have a horse to love and care for..

  6. I took the survey. It asked some good questions and maybe it’ll help solve the problem. But I doubt it. The economy is bad. People who bought horses on impulse can’t afford them now and no one else has the money to buy them.

  7. It is a good article, I took the survey. I just wish it was easier to adopt a horse, I would love to give an unwanted horse a good loveing home for the rest of its life,but it is hard to match up with the standards and everythang the adoption agencies ask for.I have s horse and she is very well taken care of, she has 10acres to run in and a shed to sleep in out of the rain and snow.This summer she is getting a new horse barn, she is kinda spoiled but she deservise it.Her name is Oklahoma Sugar Shaker, Suger for short, she is a beautifull palamino, will be 2 in may.I would love to adopt a friend for her but the standards are too high.

  8. As a life-long horse lover and owner, I am saddened by the plight of unwanted horses. In my opinion, folks with good intentions passed bad laws outlawing slaughter of unwanted horses. The best solution is to allow humane horse slaughter for human consumption.

  9. Closing of the slaughter houses has caused the drop in horse prices which has caused people htat usually couldnt afford a horse can and then cant afford to feed them and then we have starving horses, horses dieing in pastures and nobody careing enough to do anything but write articles on why we have so many UNWANTED HORSES!!!Why cant we open the slaughter horses and regulate them to make sure it is done in a human way. I know horse people out there dont like to here slaughter house but that is the only way to solve the problem it will bring the prices up and keep those people that dont need horses from buying them and the good horses will still be available for those who know how to take care of them.I’m a horse lover and would never want to see my horses go to slaughter unless they were to be put down because of injury.I realize it is hard to think this away and until you see these horses starving and dieing you just dont know!

  10. When the Humane Society of the US started lobbying strongly to close all equine slaughterhouses in the US, I just cringed. Instead of concentrating on finding ways to insure humane transportation and humane euthanasia, they have bumped the problem to Canada and Mexico, and there is no way to know what horrors occur there. There is no possible way to legislate people who will abandon their animals, but having a legitamate and HUMANE place to send unwanted horses is, in my eyes, an absolute necessity.

  11. I was disappointed in the questions asked on the unwanted horse survey. It was a biased survey with unrealistic solutions. Where will Federal funding come from? How will we help adoption shelters with unmanageable and/or dangerous horses? We are in an economic situation. No one from an “animal welfare” organization has been able to come up with a workable solution. They appear to have washed their hands of the issue once they accomplished the goal of closing the US slaugher plants. I am an animal lover and have my fair share of animals (horses, dogs, cats, etc). I would much rather see an animal put down humanely than suffer a horrible death from starvation. We have seen too many horses starved, released, and abused since the closing of the US slaughter plants. I used to live within 5 miles of one of the plants and it was very clean – in fact I did not even Know it was a horse slaughter plant for years. I agree we need to control animal abuse, but by sending our animals across the border – we have just handed them a torture sentence.

  12. The problem is that all the Animal Welfare Org. will waste money to see if there is a problem. We call know there is a problem. I am a lover and owner of horses, but I know and so do most people that there is a need for slaughter. It is something that most people do not want to talk about. They just think the problems will go away or they don’t think there is that big of a problem. The Government can not do it all and even though the owner is responsible, education is not the only answer. If it was, there would be not need for animal shelters. Peta shut down the slaughter houses not thinking of that the concequenses would be. Now along with the economy horses are suffering more than when there was slaughter.

  13. The major point on what to do with unwanted horses
    should be to regulate the safe & humaine shipping and euthanasia. Slaughter houses are necessary and
    should be reopened under federal supervision.
    What happens to the body is not as important and the treatment before death. Sometimes animal rights organ. and legislaters are not aware of the real problem.

  14. I think that the oner should go to jail for 1 years for animal abuse!!
    The horses that are abused should go to a good home..:)

  15. Horses are my first love, however I think closing the slaughter houses was a mistake that many horses are paying the price for. Just burying or burning the carcus of unwanted horses is wasteful. Well managed and regulated slaughter/euthenasia would give a purpose and dignity to the life of the unwanted horse.

  16. The problem of unwanted horses is real, very real…I don’t care if studies have been done to prove it or not. It seems to me these ‘studies’ are stalling tactics to avoid facing the reality that the closure of slaughter houses in the US was a terrible mistake that is actually making the lives of many unwanted horses much worse. I tried to take this survey on But when I responded that I prefered not to post how many horses I have, I was told I didn’t qualify to take the survey. I own horses, but I don’t own any unwanted horses. How many I own is no one’s business but my own. I will tell you our farm gets frequent calls now from people wanting to give us horses. We can’t take them. We are responsible for the horses we own and we cannot take anymore and properly care for them. I spoke with a neighbor who also has horses. People are trying to give horses to him too. Just this week, there was an ad in the newspaper for a free thoroughbred and another in the farm bulletin for a free arabian. I have seen more poor horses at horse auctions lately. I have seen sound, but untrained horses sold at auction for as little as $25.00 this past year. I have seen horse ‘rescues’ who have neither the knowledge nor the facilities to properly care for the horses they take in. It seems to me all people who wanted to close the slaughter houses should have done ‘studies’ and surveys BEFORE the slauaghter houses were closed to determine the impact of their emotional position. I’ll be surprised if these comments are posted on this site.

  17. I live in the Northeast and our horse population is a bit less than the Midwest, but the issue of unwanted horses is certainly on the rise here as well. On December 23, 2008 a horsy friend and myself saw an ad on “Craig’s list” for a free horse. We were curious and took a look. This poor gelding was living in a garage for years, in a neighborhood were horses are not the norm. We took him home on the spot. He was rated a 1 on the scale. At this time he has gained 47 lbs in 3 weeks and our vet is thrilled, although he has a long way to go. The really sad part is, this geldings breeding is just awful, I don’t know what someone was thinking or did someone jump the fence somewhere. We unfortunately have a glut of poorly bred animals in the country from “back yard breeders” that are making this worse; this in conjunction with the slaughterhouse closings has brought this to a head. Before they shut down the slaughterhouses they should have regulated the industry. I feel that breeding should be regulated as well and all animals should be registered. This will weed out thoughts who don’t know what they are doing and the unwanted horses will sharply decrease.

  18. If you have a horse, weather you want it or not, you have to take care of it! It is that simple! If you can no longer take care of it try and find it a new, good home!

  19. I thank if people want to adopt a horse then check the place out and if it is nice and thay can feed them let them adopt it would be a home for another untedwanted horse.But if you charge so much to adopt people that want to help can’t . I would love to adopt a horse but if I’m paying a lot to adopt how can I feed them.I can see paying some but not to where it makes people turn them down.They need us

  20. It was a wonderful article. I live on a farm, with stalls, and 30 acres. I would take unwanted horses, and find homes for them, if horse owners would be asked they would help, why can’t each state have a list of homes for these horses, so people don’t put them in state parks, or starve them, or cut them loose. We have a horse 32 years old.

  21. All horses are wanted by some child, some dreaming adult, or someone out there.The sad thing is not all those people have the money to care for a horse.Most of the money problem has to do with the economy.Resently I had to give away my Saddlebred to one of my moms friends, a few weeks after I had to give away my Paint to my moms friend who was leaseing him.I just wish that those horses could find a home and be cared for, not thrown into a cess pool and be fed once a day with no water.

  22. I honestly think even if there are horses that are not wanted by their previous owners, there is someone out there who does want them. killing them is not a way to get rid of them, its cruel.

  23. I think this survey is a good start to figuring out what can be done to fix the problem, but it is just a start. There will be a lot of work involved to find a solution and then implementing that solution.

  24. i thnk it is wrong the way we kill them but letting them starve is not any better we need to find a plan of what to do with unwanted horses if that means puting them down in a humain way then that is deffentley a step closer from wear we r rigt now!!

  25. The survey is inaccurate, it did not address the irresponsble horse breeders of registered horses trying to get what they think is going to be a money winner. Is the public aware of what happens to the foals born that meet the “money requirements” ?

  26. horses depend on us to take care of them not kill them ,in my eyes their are no unwanted horses ,someone is alway willing to take them the owner need to seek out other ways to place their horses if they can no longer care for them but most take the easy way out and take them to auctions. we need more funding for retired horses also the owner needs to give the to someone who wants to give them a good home that should be payment enough knowing the horse you could no longer care is in a good home!

  27. As a volunteer at The Horse Shelter (THS), Cerrillos, NM, I see too many young, healthy, well bred horses that are auctioned and end up being transported to Mexico for slaughter. Last year THS rescued two pregnant thoroughbred mares. If the right person had not been at that auction, these mares and the filly and colt they gave birth to would have become meat.These horses have tatoos and are about 8 years old. One mare and her colt have already been adopted.Even elderly, unsound horses deserve better than a trip to Mexico or Canada and a frightening, painful death.Horse owners should have the decency to find a home for sound horses and they should provide humane euthanasia for unwanted horses.

  28. This issue is very complex but I don’t believe slaughter should be an option. It makes it too easy for people to treat horses like disposable paper cups. And too often stolen horses end up in an auction house and later head for slaughter.
    In California some veterinarians are holding low cost euthanasia and castration clinics to help out with the situation.
    Humane euthanasia, responsible breeding(limiting the number of stallion bookings perhaps), education of the public on costs(long term) of breeding and raising a foal; and most of all making an organized, concerted effort to find homes and good placements for these horses. There are over 500 rescue/retirement farms in the U.S. Also horses could be donated to programs such mounted police , handicapped riding, hippotherapy, etc. There are farms/ranches in this country where horses are used as healers for abused children and women. Leadership programs are now using horses to teach communication and patience. Prisoner rehabilitation programs also use horses to train inmates for industry jobs later but relationship building as well. Let’s start some kind of clearing house for programs that need horses and perhaps each county in each state could have someone to help with placement or at least provide the public with these options as well as referrals to rescue and retirement farms.

  29. My husband and I went to find a young horse for my daughter and we ended up with a 8 year old gelding that “picked us”. I have searched some of these rescue groups and found that they require home visits and want the pipe fencing and things of that sort. We own 5 acres that is fenced in straight wire and none of my horses are mistreated at all. They are used for Gymkhana, hunting, general pleasure and things like that. According to the rules that I have read we would not qualify under their rules. That also leads these places to be over run. We have decided to go back and to try and rescue a few more from that fate. We are not a rich couple but do provide a nice home.

  30. my name is kathy i have rescued 2 horses my self one i paid 200.00 for she was so sick and so skinny,i was raised on a horse ranch when i was younger.i have a good working knowledge about horses. she the filly i bought i so beautful now she was 6mo,old when i bought her she is now 17 mo,old. i am looking for another 6to8mo old filly to keep.can any one help me out with another young filly?


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