Horse rescues are always in need of funds. Caring for any horse is expensive in itself. On average it costs close to $2000 a year to feed, vet and otherwise care for just one horse. Rescues usually care for dozens of horses at once. As you can see, this gets quite expensive. Most people are so focused on getting a horse out of a bad situation such as a feed lot or away from abusive owners that once the horse is “safe” at a rescue, they forget about it. Rescues need help too.
If you have the financial means to help a rescue by giving donations, that’s wonderful. Although a good rescue doesn’t need to solely rely on donations to keep their facility afloat, they definitely help. If you’re considering donating or even volunteering at any place that claims to be a rescue, do your research first, and look for these warning signs:
Check the condition of the animals. Obviously there will be some underweight, sickly looking horses that may have just come in, but always ask questions. Ask how long ago this animal was brought in and what kind of care he’s received. If you see an emaciated horse with dread locks and long, cracked toes hanging out in a pasture and the rescue says “He came in 6 months ago (or 4 months ago, or a year ago etc) from a really bad situation” that is a surefire sign that they’re not doing a good job.
These things can be addressed very quickly. Hooves coming back from bad condition can be taken care of in the first month so that they at least look fairly decent. By 6 months, a horse should have put back on a healthy amount of weight. Don’t let them “assure” you that he’s made progress by saying “well you should’ve seen him before.” Most horses will have made a complete turn around in their condition within 4 months or so. A true rescue will make sure that the animal leaves in better condition than when he arrived, whether it be training, nutrition or farrier or vet care. Horses should never end up looking worse than when they arrived.
Have a look at the facility. Are the horses housed appropriately? Do they have access to clean water? Do they have shelter from wind, rain and mud? Is their fencing solid and upright? Or is their fencing rusty barbed wire or falling down? Do they have piles of trash in their pastures? Are they knee deep in mud? Are there multiple horses crammed into small pastures?
Are they diligent about placing the horses in proper homes, or do they just hand one over to the first person with cash? A legit rescue will try to find the best fit for a horse. They won’t adopt out a recently gelded barely started mustang to a parent wanting a good riding pony for his 7 year old daughter, even if he is willing to pay $2000. They also won’t adopt out an animal that hasn’t recovered yet. If the horse is still in need of training, more weight, more hoof care etc, they will hold the horse and finish his rehab until he’s ready to go to a new home. A good rescue also won’t dump horses that can’t be adopted off at auction or to the first unsuspecting buyer that comes along. If they don’t have a horse that’s a good fit for a potential adopter, a good rescue should be more than happy to direct them to other reputable rescues that will.
Ask the rescue for references. A legit rescue will usually be happy to supply a list of other reputable rescues, vets, farriers and adopters that are familiar with them. A good rescue shouldn’t have anything to hide. They should be happy to meet with you at their facility and shouldn’t need a ton of advanced notice. A rescue who dodges meetings and keeps rescheduling or wants to meet elsewhere usually means their facility is in bad shape and they don’t want you to see it. Although a reputable rescue would prefer an appointment, they should have no problem with you dropping by unexpectedly to see the condition of the place.
Before donating, be sure the rescue in question is a real non-profit group that has, or is in the process of obtaining, their 501(c)3 status. This makes your donation tax deductible.
Remember to do your research. If any of these warning signs come up, run, don’t walk, the other way. Is the rescue in question really trying to help the horse? Or are they lazy, scattered and in it to make a buck? If you come across a non-legit rescue and are concerned for the well being of the animals, don’t hesitate to contact the authorities, either animal control or the sheriff’s office and don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard.