Simply put, horses are amazing. They’re powerful, majestic, graceful and always dead honest. They have no ego. They’re willful workers, commanding athletes, compassionate healers and gentle, whimsical companions. They might show you how to fly, how to dance or how to simply slowdown and relish a meander on a leafy trail.
Thanklessly, they’ve played a historical role in shaping human civilization as we now know it. Besides building nations, they’re teachers. A wise man once said, “Horses teach you a lot and very little of it has to do with horses". With a horse, you learn collaboration and trust.
A horse is your best friend who you’ll never have to tell if your happy or sad. Just ride him and he’ll know.
While not endangered, the alternatives horses face as they move from being wanted to unwanted are daunting. Few options exist for them: euthanasia, slaughter or rehoming via the work done in equine rescues.
Unfortunately, the plight of the unwanted horse is fraught with unclarity and a lack of oversight.
There aren’t any reliable statistics on the total number of horses that become unwanted each year. We do know that 90,000 to 150,000 horses are sent to Canada and Mexico annually for slaughter. The meat is exported to Europe and Asia for human consumption. The idea of slaughtering companion animals is unacceptable and has never been embraced by the American people. A 2012 national poll found that 80 percent of Americans support banning horse slaughter for human consumption.
Heartbreakingly, the vast majority of the horses sent to slaughter could be rehomed. The USDA documented that 92.3% of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition and are able to live out a productive life. These horses could have been sold, donated or otherwise rehomed; however, kill buyers outbid legitimate horse owners and rescues at auctions.
How does a horse end up unwanted?
- Their owners die.
- Their owners fall on hard times.
- Horses can live over 30 years and many people are not prepared to care for any animal its entire life.
- Lame or un-rideable horses almost always end up homeless.
- A sport or competitive horse stops winning.
- Over breeding by “backyard “breeders.
- Wild horses are rounded up to give their land to cattle ranchers.
- A horse which is not the right color, confirmation or temperament.
- Horses with any type of medical condition
A sobering fact is that 80% of first time horse owners get rid of their horse within 5 years.
The total number of horses in rescues and sanctuaries is unreported but what is clear is the tide of horses that have nowhere to go only moves in one direction. It rises but never falls.
Although there are numerous equine rescue facilities throughout the United States, these facilities do not have enough capacity or resources to accommodate all the unwanted horses. On average, rescues turn away 38% of horses brought to them. These numbers were substantiated by researchers at the University of California-Davis who found that 83.9% of facilities surveyed received additional requests to accept horses between 2006-2009.
Horse rescue facilities are not federally regulated. Although most are reputable and caring places, there is no way to guarantee that they will (or can) provide adequate care for the horses they take in. Every state has laws that define animal abuse and neglect; penalties often vary from state to state. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to enforce these laws unless an animal is already suffering or near death. In addition, many states lack the manpower and financial resources necessary to monitor and investigate neglectful and abusive situations. Very few, if any, states have set aside parts of their budget to provide for the care of seized horses. With regards to this, Phil the Horse has done careful research to select the rescue organizations it partners with, ensuring they provide the best and most humane conditions to the horses.
Most rescue facilities rely solely on donations for their operation. A modest estimate of $3,000 is considered the annual budget to care for one horse. This figure is for basic feed alone; it doesn’t include stabling, veterinary and farrier costs. After a demanding early work life, most horses will require treatment for chronic conditions and costs can quickly add up. In addition, horses currently being received by rescue facilities are thinner and sicklier than in previous years, requiring additional care and expense. Drought conditions leading to higher prices for hay and grain have compounded the problem, making covering expenses even more challenging for individual owners and rescue facilities alike. Here Phil can make a difference by channeling more funding to the rescues that are working hard to find these amazing and majestic animals their forever homes.