4 Types of Equine Rescues

Bay Horse

Adopting a horse through an equine rescue facility can seem bewildering at first. There are so many different entities that claim the title “horse rescue” that you can become immobilized due to confusion. So you don’t lose your enthusiasm, here’s a quick look at the various types of facilities you might encounter:

Non-profit equine rescue facility:
These organizations have endured the tedious task of applying to the IRS for tax exempt status as a 501(c) 3 organization. The approval process is arduous, but the title adds a definite amount of credibility to the facility’s dedication to save as many unwanted horses as possible. These facilities are, however, clearly run as a business. As such, the unwanted horses they take in must demonstrate the potential for a successful adoption. View a list of some non-profit equine rescues in North America >>

Equine rescue facility without tax exempt status:
Not every reputable rescue facility files for tax exempt status. There can be multiple reasons behind that decision. For example, a small private stable might have the space and finances to rescue only a few horses a year. That’s hardly worth the hassle of wrangling with the IRS. Yet it’s still a noble cause, and sometimes the sole rescued horse that’s recovering in someone’s backyard barn gets the most hands-on, individualized care.

GRAS accredited equine rescue facility:
The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) is an international organization that provides resources and recognition for rescue facilities. The accreditation/verification process includes standards for housing, nutrition, veterinary care, staffing, safety policies and training, education and more. Verified sanctuaries are shown to provide humane, ethical and responsible care while accredited rescues have been assessed to meet or exceed the GFAS Standards of Excellence. More information, including the full standards for equine sanctuaries, is available at sanctuaryfederation.org.

Breed-specific rescue facility:
Several prominent breeds have made valid attempts to help ensure that the foals they register don’t eventually join the estimated 130,000 American horses that are annually shipped across the border to slaughter. For instance, the Jockey Club encourages owners and breeders to support ex-racehorses in their retirement through several programs, including the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Thoroughbred Incentive Program. Contact your preferred breed’s registry to find out what kind of rescue and safety net programs are available.

For more information on equine rescue facilities visit these websites:

Get more info on equine adoption at HorseChannel’s Horse Rescue Resource Center >>

Additional reporting contributed by Leslie Potter.

Read more about equine rescue and adoption in the January 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe!


  1. Usually your articles are helpful and enjoyable. Unfortunately, this one makes poor generalizations and overlaps. If I were an average horseman considering rescue, your introduction would be offputting and your article does little to help ease that concern.
    FIRST – many, many sanctuaries are 501c3. A sanctuary provides a place to finish out an animal’s life, and is not looking to adopt. Those animals do NOT have to be able to find a future career or “potential for adoption.”
    SECOND – GFAS acknowledged rescues must first be 501c3. THIS adds credibility to a facility – it shows you meet some VERY high standards, although I wish annual inspection were part of the process. A 501c3 simply says you are willing/able to be run as a charitable business – it provides NO info on level of care, salaries paid to employees, pro or anti-slaughter stance or any of dozens of other things assumed by many but actually not at all accurate.
    If you were to break out rescues into types, there are so many better ways to do so, such as…
    sanctuaries that provide lifelong shelter;
    case-specific rescues such as PMU and OTTB only facilities;
    breed specific which care for only certain types, with or without help from the breed registries;
    skill focused such as rescues that focus upon horses capable of going on to careers in therapy, western showing, etc;
    training-focused rescues which work with difficult cases, rehab, retrain and rehome them;
    rehab-focused rescues whose strength is in taking severe neglect cases and make them well but may or may not have any focus on training/preparing horses for new lives.
    Again thank you for your efforts to promote and support rescues. Please consider visiting some of the many fantastic facilities or at least speakign with them and write a new article that will give your readers more help and detail in really making a consideration of what rescue best fits their needs and what to watch for regarding rescues that might be less than reputable.


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