In 2006, 12 prominent individuals in Kentucky’s horse industry recognized that the region needed an all-breed equine rescue. Thus, they established the nonprofit Kentucky Equine Humane Center (KyEHC), in Nicholasville, Ky. Like other reputable equine rescues around the country, the KyEHC takes in horses and then adopts them out to new homes. Here’s how this process works for us and how we help ensure a positive match.

Owners or agencies such as animal control surrender horses to rescues for a variety of reasons: abuse, neglect, abandonment, or owners’ financial/health reasons. In one case the KyEHC was involved with, for instance, a gentleman with a terminal illness could no longer care for his two horses and had to give them up. In another case an owner simply left the state and abandoned his horse. And, in yet another, an owner left two ponies in a wildlife management area. All these animals found their way to the KyEHC.

Shaq arrived at the KyEHC in terrible shape, but was adopted by a qualified owner three months later and is now thriving.

Photo: Courtesy KyEHC

So while the organization helps horses first, it also frequently helps people who are going through difficult transitions in their lives. Without the services of rescues like the KyEHC, many horses would be left in precarious situations, facing uncertain futures. The rescue takes in and then adopts out an average of more than 50 horses each year and, since opening its doors in 2006, the KyEHC has handled more than 700 horses (86 horses in 2012 alone).

When a horse arrives at the KyEHC, he undergoes a thorough physical, gets his vaccinations, and is scheduled for regular farrier and dental care. The KyEHC staff and veterinarian tend to any physical issues including weight loss, skin conditions and open sores, and injuries. The staff trainer works with each horse under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter, giving the new owner a basis on which to build.

KyEHC adoption fees range from $50-1,000. All the organization’s funding comes from donations, fundraising, and special events, and approximately $3,000 per year, per horse, is needed to support the farm operations.

To adopt one of these animals, applicants complete an adoption application asking for farrier and veterinary references, information about the facility where the horse will be kept, as well as the applicant’s income (to ensure he or she has the means to support a horse). Once the application is processed, the applicant makes an appointment to visit and/or try any of the horses.

  • Before adopting, however, potential owners must consider these major points:
  • Horses need 24/7, 365-days-a-year care. If this is their first time owning a horse on their own property, they must be well-educated and able to handle this type of regular care.
  • Potential adopters must recognize that additional time and attention is necessary to build on these horses’ training.
  • We encourage potential adopters to bring their trainers or a knowledgeable friend along as another set of eyes and ears when trying a horse. This is especially true if the horse is going to be a child’s horse.
  • It’s important the adopter be flexible and open to the different horses available. Many people think they know exactly what they want but then leave with a different horse—most likely one that is better suited to their needs. The goal is to match the right horse with the right owner.

One of the great benefits of adopting is that you can know you are truly making a difference in a horse’s life. The horses at KyEHC, like those at so many other rescues across the country, are getting second chances at productive lives, and it’s gratifying to see a horse that comes to the center aloof and timid blossom into a friendly, confident, and loving companion.


Karen Gustin is the executive director of the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, in Nicholasville.

Originally published in the July 2013 issue of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care.