100,000 Abandoned Horses

Our columnist says: The crisis of unwanted and neglected horses extends well beyond the humble scope of eventing, but as members of the equestrian community in general we are very much called to address the issue.  

This is Mona just after being rescued.  Mona was temporarily cared for by Eventing Nation’s LisaB until the foster barn could find room for her.  You can view Mona’s page at the foster barn here.  Photos like this make me at the same time incredibly angry and incredibly sad.

One important mission of Eventing Nation is to champion important causes that don’t get as much attention as they deserve.  The reality is that for every one horse that wins Rolex, for every horse that started on XC this weekend, and yes, for every “Pudding” (see Katie’s post), there are hundreds of unwanted and neglected horses.  The scope of the unwanted horse problem is tough to fathom, but the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are over 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States alone.  That is one and a half NFL stadium seats of horses like Mona.  

Some people suggest that reopening slaughter houses would help the situation, but that is a horrible thought and at best a highly imperfect solution.  In my mind, we should try to address the issue before the unwanted horses are born, perhaps by trying to restrict the number of horse breedings.  England has recently been debating instituting a horse tax, which, while inconvenient to all horse owners, would discourage people from having too many horses that they can’t afford.  Perhaps the most important step is to change the perception of horses from work/sport animals to family members that deserve a lifelong commitment.
The Jockey Club reported last Friday that the registered Thoroughbred foals crop in 2011 will have dropped to 27,000 foals, which is down %10 from 2010.  While this more bad news for the financial health of racing, I think it is encouraging for those who care for unwanted and neglected horses.  
The good news is that the horse world is full of heroes.  From volunteers at rescue centers, to the folks at racetracks who work hard to find good homes for retired racehorses, to anyone who rides an OTTB, many people are working hard to save abandoned horses.  There are literally hundreds of equine rescue centers across the country and all of them deserve our recognition and thanks.  I volunteered at a rescue center as part of a service project in high school, and I recommend the experience to anyone who loves horses–there’s a whole different horse world out there than our fancy three-days.  
Another way to help is to try to find homes for unwanted horses.  Pretty much anyone reading  Eventing Nation has good connections to people looking for horses.  Get ahold of your local rescue center and see if you might be able to put the right people in touch with the right people to make some adoptions happen.   
As an attempt to help raise awareness for unwanted and neglected horses, I am making World Horse Welfare our new “cause of the month.”  World Horse Welfare is one of the more visible unwanted horse organizations, and I intend it to represent all of the rescue efforts worldwide.  
I’m a big believer in putting your money where your mouth is, and, as many of you know, our new site www.hahahorses.com donates all of its proceeds to abandoned and neglected horse rescues and charities.  It may seem strange combining horse humor with such a deep welfare mission, but Hahahorses is all about horse people from all disciplines coming together.  I also should thank Eventing Nation for being well represented on Hahahorses with tons of funny eventing captions.  
As eventers, we didn’t cause the problem of abandoned and neglected horses.  Event horses compete for the majority of their adult lives and generally enjoy a long retirement in their owners’ pasture.  But as citizens of the horse world, we are called to work together and recognize the problems facing horses everywhere.  Please share your thoughts/ideas on the issue in the comment section.  Go eventing.

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