The Frequent Rehoming Issue

Let’s talk about the frequent rehoming issue with horses. Did you know that on average a horse goes through 7 homes in their life? With their average lifespan (if they are lucky not to have an injury or illness) reaching the late 20s, this is a sad 4 years per home. This is a disturbingly low commitment level for a long-lived animal. Of their years on this earth, only a period in the middle will the horses be “useful” to humans. So of these 7 homes the horse bounced through who should be responsible for their ethical retirement and end of life care? Their breeder? The person who competed with them? The person who owned them the longest? This isn’t a cheap responsibility. As a rescue we know too well how expensive it is to care for sick, injured, and elderly horses. Its also painfully emotional for us to deal with – but every horse deserves good care and a humane end of life with the people who love them. Especially if they have served around 7 humans in their life!
 
Now there sure are many times that rehoming is the best and most appropriate option for everyone. There are even heartbreaking times where we must pass on a horse, either to a good home or to a rescue. There is no shame and nothing wrong with this, this is reality sometimes. Life doesn’t always go as planned, even if we come up with the most foolproof plans to do right by our animals, sometimes sh*t happens. It’s terribly sad when this happens, but rescues should be able to be there for people and horses in these times of need. Whether to provide some care and taking the responsibility of finding them a great home – or to provide the horse a good retirement. When a real issue pops up, we should be able to band together as a community and support those people and horses. This is hard to do when rescues are full of horses who are dumped by irresponsible owners. Horses rotated through the system and forgotten.
 
Unwanted horses are often tossed home to home until they are lost in the world and end up somewhere not so safe. Even if there were people in their life who cared, they have gotten lost among homes. As a horse culture we need to encourage the owner’s responsibility to care for horses after injury, illness or into old age. If you can’t, consider leasing, taking lessons or even volunteering at a rescue. If you’ve used a horse for your enjoyment and sport for a long time, you have responsibility to them in their old age. If your goals lead to their injury or breakdown, you are responsible for their care. If you’ve outgrown (physically or competitively) your horse, but the horse can still be enjoyed by others, try maintaining ownership and leasing the horse to appropriate homes so you can assure their comfortable retirement and end of life. There are retirement barns in less expensive areas that will provide a soft pasture life for horses. There are many options to keep your horse safe and assure they have a soft landing.
 
As a rescue our focus should be in taking in horses who have been abused or neglected, and helping people who are in dire circumstances. We shouldn’t be a dumping ground for horses who can’t be used anymore. Someone in that horse’s 7+ homes has got to take responsibility for the horse when they are no longer “useful”.
 
Our focus is also in spreading education. If we can teach people about behavioral science, appropriate keeping, and healthcare for horses we can help prevent horses from needing to be rehomed. If we can raise awareness for all the fun things you can enjoy with your horse even when your horse can’t compete or ride. With teaching these things we can help horses keep their homes, even when they have behavioral, emotional, or physical issues that may typically result in rehoming.