I will be the first to admit that, as a horse person living in the Bluegrass, I'm a bit spoiled. Evening drives to the barn take me past one multimillion dollar Thoroughbred breeding farm after another. I get to admire herds of broodmares as they grow increasingly round, and delight in fields full of leggy foals and rowdy weanlings. I can’t help but wonder, however, where all these horses end up. Will that handsome chestnut go on to be a stakes-winning racehorse? Will that flashy filly rise up the sport horse ranks? Truth is, after their performance and breeding careers are over, or if an owner falls on hard times, many of these animals will be in need of new homes. Some might find respite in an equine rescue or adoption facility, and the lucky ones will land in a forever home.
With today's surplus of so-called "unwanted" horses, The Horse is a big proponent of equine adoption and is proud to have united more than 650 horses with new owners through TheHorse.com’s Free Horse Listings. However, there’s more to adopting a horse than simply picking one out of a field, loading him in the trailer, and voilà, meet your new trail horse! The adoption process is just that—a process.
If you read Part 1 of our Adoption Series, you learned that prospective adopters should do their homework to find a reputable facility, become familiar with policies, and work with personnel to find the horse best suited for their needs. Part 2 helps guide you through that critical transition phase after you adopt a horse. As it turns out, adoptions necessitate patience, ground lessons, working with a veterinarian, and tuning into your horse’s emotional and physical needs, among others. Owners who go into adoption ill-prepared aren't doing these animals any favors; in fact, they might end up doing more harm than good.
Our own intrepid news editor, Erica Larson, adopted her now 15-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred, Dorado, in March 2009. The gelding had been donated previously to a Girl Scout riding facility where Erica worked, but his future became uncertain after he proved a poor match for the novice riders. For a reasonable fee ("The best $350 I've ever spent," says Erica), she adopted the spunky dark bay, took the time to put weight on him, and now events happily with "Baby D." Erica and Dorado's tale is one of countless adoption success stories I’ve heard over years in the horse industry. It’s also a testament to what a little love, patience, and proper care can do.
So before you drop several thousand dollars on a sale horse, take a minute to consider whether adopting (be it an ex-racehorse, a rescue, or a mustang) might be your cup of tea. If you do your research, work with one of the many fabulous adoption organizations, and can commit to caring for the animal, you might just end up with your horse of a lifetime.