Changing the Dialogue on Horse Adoption

As a culture, Americans are fairly comfortable with the idea of rescuing a dog or a cat from a shelter. In fact, the choice to get a rescue as a family pet is maybe even more common than going directly to a pet store or breeder. Across the country there are countless canine and feline rescue organizations that will ship animals nationwide to approved adopters. And massive “Super Adoption Days” are frequently organized to place 100’s of animals in one day.

Ultimately, it’s your personal preference as to how you bring an animal into your life and the fact is, as long as the animal is cared for and loved, all manners of acquisition are wonderful. Regardless of where they came from, kindness to any animal is kindness to yourself and that simply makes the world a better place all around.

However, Phil the Horse would merely like to point out that the conversation between adopting a canine/feline from a rescue versus an equine companion from one is very different. With regards to horses, going to a rescue is not always part of the equation. But this is truly a shame because as we’ve mentioned before, there are beautiful, friendly, loving horses in rescues just looking for a home.

Horse Rescue AdoptionAdopting a horse through an equine rescue facility, however, can seem bewildering at first. There are so many different entities that claim the title “horse rescue” that you might be confused at first. To help clear up some of the confusion, here’s a quick look at the various types of facilities you might encounter:

Non-profit Equine Rescue Facility:

These organizations have endured the tedious task of applying to the IRS for tax exempt status as a 501(c) 3 organization. The approval process is arduous, but the title adds a definite amount of credibility to the facility’s dedication to save as many unwanted horses as possible. These facilities are, however, clearly run as a business. As such, the unwanted horses they take in must demonstrate the potential for a successful adoption. All of the rescues and equine charities that Phil the Horse work with are 501(c) 3 organizations.

Equine Rescue Facility Without Tax Exempt Status:

Not every reputable rescue facility files for tax exempt status. There can be multiple reasons behind that decision. For example, a small private stable might have the space and finances to rescue only a few horses a year. That’s hardly worth the hassle of wrangling with the IRS. Yet it’s still a noble cause, and sometimes the single rescued horse that’s recovering in someone’s backyard barn gets the most hands-on, individualized care.

GFAS Accredited Equine Rescue Facility:

The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) is an international organization that provides resources and recognition for rescue facilities. The accreditation/verification process includes standards for housing, nutrition, veterinary care, staffing, safety policies and training, education and more. Verified sanctuaries are shown to provide humane, ethical and responsible care while accredited rescues have been assessed to meet or exceed the GFAS Standards of Excellence. More information, including the full standards for equine sanctuaries, is available at

Breed-Specific Rescue Facility:

Horse Adoption FactsSeveral prominent breeders have made valid attempts to help ensure that the foals they register don’t eventually join the estimated 130,000 American horses that are annually shipped across the border to slaughter. For instance, the Jockey Club encourages owners and breeders to support ex-racehorses in their retirement through several programs, including the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Thoroughbred Incentive Program. Contact your preferred breed’s registry to find out what kind of rescue and safety net programs are available. If you have a specific breed in mind, there’s a good chance there’s a rescue dedicated to what you’re looking for as there are rescues that specialize in Appaloosas, Morgans, Arabians, Saddlebreds, Standardbreds, Percherons, Clydesdales, Minis and more.

Through our blog posts, we hope that maybe we can be part of the process to help change the dialogue on purchasing a horse. There’s a wonderful organization called The Right Horse Initiative ( which is a collective of equine industry and welfare professionals and advocates working together to improve the lives of horses in transition. Their goal is to massively increase horse adoption in the United States. If you’re not familiar with the group, we highly recommend you spend some time on their website. There’s a host of information on the industry partners as well as adoption partners. In another blog, we’ll introduce one of Right Horse Initiative’s partners that Phil the Horse is also working with, Horse Plus Humane Society.

Here are some additional resources on equine rescue facilities:

Sources: The Horse Channel, “4 Types of Equine Rescues”, Cindy Hall, November 26, 2014


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