Horse rescues hold a special place in our hearts here at Double D Trailers. It all started several years ago when we learned the story of a stubborn little gelding who wouldn’t get on his trailer. Since then, we’ve talked to dozens of rescue workers across our nation to hear about their successes, challenges, and learn about their needs.
We’ve come to appreciate even more the resilient power of horses to overcome. These animals survive all sorts of horrible situations like abusive owners, cruel confinement, and stressful auction houses where they barely escaped the clutches of the meat buyers. (Read Part I of this article to learn more about these issues.)
Now for some hope. Here, we share more about the awesome potential of rescue horses. Plus, you can learn ways that you can personally help to make a difference in your community.
Several farms in our country have demonstrated the wonderful potential of rescue horses. For instance, Cindy Gilbert, a riding instructor in Manheim, PA has several rescued horses in her lesson barn. Her personal horse is a Thoroughbred who was once sold to slaughter to pay for a board bill. She adopted him after he was rescued at the age of four and has gone on to do everything from hunters, dressage, fox hunting, eventing, paper chases and more.
Delight is a rescued Thoroughbred who was saved from slaughter at the age of four years. His owner, Cindy Gilbert of Harvest View Stables in Manheim, PA, has used him for eventing, fox hunting, and even riding lessons. He's a wonderful horse that was almost lost.
Another popular rescue horse at her barn was a beloved horse named Kish who was transformed from a thin, lame, flinching Amish cart horse to a willing hunter who loved to help children to learn to jump.
Painted Bar Stables in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, likes to use rescued horses for their trail ride program. We learned about the story of a rescued mule named Spock (photo below). Owner Erika Eckstrom explained how he came to the farm so jumpy that no one could get near him. After months of work, he blossomed into a steady and reliable trail horse that has become a bit of a farm celebrity. He even has his own T-shirt in the farm gift shop!
Rescued horses have lived a hard life, but it is due to the efforts of organizations in our Horse Rescue Corner that they are given a second chance at life. After they are brought into the rescues, these animals usually undergo extensive veterinary care, rehabilitation, retraining so they can safely be placed into a new home. Some rescue organizations will provide a life-long home for their animals, but most are actively looking for responsible new owners who are willing to adopt their animals.
Adopting a rescued horse certainly comes with its own set of challenges. Unlike a regular horse purchase, these animals have a traumatic past that may require additional patience and training to overcome. As the new owner, it will be your responsibility to help them learn to love and trust humans once again. But don’t worry. We’ve heard over and over again from rescue workers about the amazing ability of horses to forgive and forget.
One of the main benefits of adopting a rescued horse is that the rescue organization often knows that horse really well. After spending weeks or months rehabbing and retraining the animal, it is in their best interest to match each outgoing horse with the right type of new owner.
Rescue workers can help you determine if a particular animal is going to work well with your riding goals. They’ll help you sort out the horses with top dressage or roping potential from those other animals that are best left as trail horses or happy pasture mates.
Compared to a regular horse purchase, adopting a rescued horse can be much less expensive. Some farms will ask for a few hundred dollars as an adoption fee. They usually also ask for a detailed application with information about your experiences, facilities, and even references. This is all done to make sure that you are going to be able to properly care for the new animal.
Usually, a horse rescue will ask you to sign paperwork that you will never breed or resell the adopted horse. This is just a safety precaution to make sure that the horse doesn’t end up in another bad situation. If something happens and you are no longer able to care for him, the rescue would simply ask you to return him back to the rescue to be placed in another home.
Remember that every time a rescued horse is adopted, it frees up a space for another horse to be saved. James from the Apache Junction Horse Rescue in Arizona says, “When you deliver a horse and you see the excitement, smiles on the faces, and how the children all light up; it seems like each horse that goes to a forever home is a great success.”
If horse adoption is not possible for you, there may be other ways that you can help. Almost every rescue that we spoke with talked about a need for money, volunteers, and supplies. These are often 501c non-profit organizations that exist solely on financial donations, fund-raisers, and adoption fees to support and feed the animals. Common supplies needed are things like feed, hay, stall bedding, rakes, wheel barrows, deworming medicines, veterinary care, and farrier services.
Volunteers are also needed to muck out stalls, feed, perform farm maintenance, and give attention to the horses. We’ve found that many farms have a full re-training program, but often this work is reserved for people who have a solid foundation in horse training and riding skills. Those without equine skills can also contribute by helping with websites, advertising, fund-raisers, and community events.
Many horse rescues have partnerships with local organizations like scouting clubs, 4-H clubs, church groups, and after school programs. We also learned about programs that pair rescued horses with troubled youth, special needs children and retired veterans. Many rescues talk about their ability to heal horses, but also the horses’ ability to heal humans. Horses have a true healing power and these programs are wonderful for communities.
In an effort to help the rescues on our Horse Rescue Corner list, Double D Trailers has set up a horse trailer donation and sharing program. This program allows horse trailer owners across the country to connect with a rescue in their local area. When that rescue needs temporary use of a trailer, they can call upon local owners to help.
We encourage you to check out our Horse Rescue Corner list to see if any rescues are in your neck of the woods. A trailer sharing sign-up is a great way to provide meaningful help to a rescue without committing to an ongoing volunteer schedule. Help out with your trailer when and how you can based on your schedule and the rescue’s needs.
If you want to take it one step further - we also have a donation program. Donate your old and unused trailer to a horse rescue. For them, it will make a world of difference.
If you’re reading this article, then chances are, horses have touched your life in some way. We hope that this has helped you better understand some of the challenges facing horses and their caregivers in our country.
If you are ready to explore horse rescues in your area, please take a look at our Horse Rescue Corner database. Find a rescue in your home region and connect with them to volunteer, donate, or share your trailer.
If you can’t help out, at least be an advocate for this issue. Spread the word. Help others to learn about this issue so that more rescues can receive the help that they need to save as many animals as possible.