5 Things to Know Before Bringing Home a Rescue Horse

There are many rewards to adopting a horse in need, but there are some potential challenges you need to be aware of, too.


Sadly, there is a never ending supply of horses that have been neglected, abandoned, or abused. Anyone with a warm and caring heart may find themselves drawn to helping one or more of these creatures. Saving a horse from tragic circumstances, whether through adoption, rescue, or even purchase, is a benevolent act with intrinsic rewards. While opening your home and heart to a horse in need can be a wonderful experience, it comes with special considerations for which you’ll want to prepare.

Kansas Before
This stallion, Kansas, was rescued at age 23. He is shown here after 30 days of care from a rescue group.

1. Learn as much about your rescue as you can before you bring him home

Information about his health, training, and interactions he’s had with people will help smooth the transition from his old situation to his new life with you. Even if a medical history is available, have him examined by a vet to obtain a professional’s opinion on his current condition. This will help you make plans for his management, care, and physical rehabilitation if necessary. A vet will also provide the health certificate and negative Coggins report that is required for a horse to travel and live in most states.

2. Your rescue’s introduction to his new accommodations may not be trouble-free

It’s possible that he’s never seen the inside of a stall or spent the night in a pasture. For that matter, electric fence may be a complete mystery to him; he could panic if it zaps him or he may have no respect for it whatsoever. Familiarize him to his new living arrangements methodically, whether that means hand walking him around his new pasture or walking him in and out of his stall until he feels comfortable and relaxed. Keep stall doors and windows closed for the first couple of days until you’re certain that he won’t try to escape. His housing needs to be secure and hazard free – fencing, gates, and doors need to withstand his exploits without causing injury in case he becomes excited or anxious.

3. Plan to quarantine

Two weeks is standard, but consult with your veterinarian about the length of time that is appropriate in your situation. Though this may not be necessary if you are adopting a horse from a rescue organization that has previous knowledge of his health status, it is still a precaution worth considering. To quarantine means keeping the newcomer far enough away from other horses that there is no chance of physical or air-borne contact. Also be careful to prevent cross-contamination. Set aside buckets, brushes, and equipment solely for your new horse’s use. Handling him last before you leave for the day, or changing your clothing and washing your hands before touching other animals, can further safeguard against the spread of disease.

Kansas After
Two years of good care and one gelding surgery later, Kansas enjoys hanging out with mares in the field.

4. Be ready for behavior and training challenges

Many neglected horses have had little or no human contact for long stretches of time. Some rescues have interacted with humans in ways that have been painful and traumatic. Make no assumptions about what your horse knows or how he will respond to you. Play it safe and treat each encounter with caution and patience. Test the waters before putting him in any situation until you know he has the confidence to handle it. For example, instead of tying him fast, pretend to tie him by running the lead through a tie-ring and holding onto the rope. This will give you a chance to see how he responds to having his head confined without the risk of him having an unsetting experience or getting hurt.

Be careful about letting sentiment cloud your judgment. Just because you saved him, it doesn’t mean that this will be a magical experience for you both. He could be difficult to work with and require time and training before he feels safe and behaves predictably. If he comes to you physically or emotionally depressed, you may also see a positive change in behavior and an increase of energy as his condition and state of mind improve.

5. A rescue can cost more than the average horse

A horse in need may require veterinary intervention, intensive farrier services, medications, or specialized supplements. Expenses should decrease once a horse has been successfully rehabilitated, but there is always the chance that the horse you bring home will continue to have expensive needs. The financial aspect can be difficult to deal with, yet it is important to consider it carefully and responsibly so that providing for the horse doesn’t become a worry for you.

Liked this article? Here are others you’ll enjoy:
Retraining the Rescue Horse
Finding a Reputable Horse Rescue




  1. I am glad the point about quarantine is made. Beside, for health reason, most of a truely horse, needs to gain strenth and trust, of it’s surrounding before being put in with your herd. Slow is the best advise to give.

  2. I recently rescued a blind Belgian mare who I have named Haddie. Anyone can read her story on Gofundme.com by searching ‘Haddie Needs Help.’ I’ve raised the money needed, but her story is still there. She is a huge challenge for me, but I love her to pieces!

  3. We took in a rescue horse. It had rabies. Nine of us were in danger and vaccinated. The entire thing was tragic. The only “silver lining” was that we were able to offer the pony love and as comfortable a passing that she could have. Immediate vaccinations are a must. Although horses can harbor rabies for up to a year undetected. But, awareness is most important.

  4. If you are thinking about rescuing a horse and you are not experienced with rescue horses, don’t. Rescue horses need specialized diet, care, and rehabilitation. If you see a horse that needs help, contact a local rescue organization. If you want to help, support a rescue group financially, volunteer, or adopt.

  5. I totally agree with all of this and would like to add, talk to some who has rescued horses before you rescue one and understand each horse is different just like people.
    I know that for me most of the people I knew when I got my first rescue were against it and it made it really hard because I didn’t know better and I had no help. I can now proudly say that that mare I rescued so many years ago is one of the best horses I’ve ever worked with. I can also proudly say that out of my 12(+1in April) horses and ponies only 1 is not a rescue of some sort. I have found great joy in not only rescuing but also retraining them and my little sisters are now following me on this path of rescuing by choosing to rescue and retrain ponies instead of buying a trained one.

  6. this article is for someone taking in a horse NOT been through proper care of a rescue facility. this article perpetuates the garbage ideas out there that a horse coming out of a rescue is more likely to be broken, dangerous, trouble, have issues and things to worry you.
    PLEASE do a better job of writing your articles to help people understand the difference between taking in a horse in trouble and adopting a horse form a proper rescue facility.
    PS: EVERY data point made here is valid about bringing home **ANY** new horse. In many cases, a horse coming from a reputable rescue facility is likely to come with MORE and BETTER information than teh average horse purchase!

  7. We are completely honest about every issue we know about our rescue horses. We don’t rely on adoption fees to cover expenses. People are often not told the truth by someone dealing horses. They are out to make a buck. By the time most rescues get horses ready for adoption they know what issues they are dealing with and they want to find the right home because the horses are coming from bad situations. We say “no” often, we want our adoptions to be permanent. We have the horses best interest at heart, we won’t adopt unless the adopters meet our criteria. I think people need to be a lot more realistic when rescuing from the auction. You need to be prepared for anything, you aren’t going to know the horse is really lame, but was on bute and ran through the sale sound. You need to be responsible for that horse the second it becomes yours. Not call a rescue when the going gets tough because the horse wasn’t exactly what you wanted. You have to be willing to put the time, training, and money into helping the horse. If you don’t have solid horse experience or someone that can help you, you shouldn’t consider rescuing a horse. Your comment about a rescue horse costing more than an average horse is really unfair. We would not adopt out a horse that required major medical or farrier care until it was rehabilitated. Any horse can have major medical bills, colic, get kicked, go lame etc… I don’t think this article supports the legitimate rescue groups out there. Our lives revolve around the rescue horses 24/7. People need to be responsible horse owners regardless of whether or not they are adopting a rescue horse or buying a horse and will face issues in the article above with any horse, not just a rescue.

  8. Very good points. In essence, one should not have any expectations but to prepare for the unprepared. You never know what you might end up with.
    As for the rescues making comments on this article, obviously HC is writing about rescue horses and NOT Equine rescues.


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