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    A Home For Every Horse | Fall 2012 Out Here Magazine

    Tractor Supply teams up with equine groups to help with horse adoptions

    a horse playing in the field
    Zodiac, a former racehorse who was rescued from starvation, is happy, healthy, and frisky in his new home.
    Out Here

    By Noble Sprayberry

    Photography courtesy of
    Days End Farm Horse Rescue

    An injured leg ended Zodiac's racing career, responsible for $200,000 in horse track winnings. Retirement meant a West Virginia farm with about 50 other horses, mostly thoroughbreds.

    By the time animal control officers shut the farm down in 2010, many of the horses were starving.

    The condition of Zodiac, who raced as Rhythmic Moves, was among the worst.

    His savior was the Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Woodbine, Md., which specializes in caring for horses seized by animal control.

    The volunteer, non-profit is one of dozens of organizations working to find homes for unwanted horses and is responsible for rescuing and rehabilitating more than 1,800 horses since 1989.

    They're getting help from a relatively new initiative called A Home for Every Horse, which is an online clearing house offering a one-stop tool for horse rescue organizations, as well as anyone interested in adopting a horse. It's supported by the Unwanted Horse Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.; equine.com, the online presence of The Equine Network, which has 16 publications covering a range of horse-focused topics, as well as a website connecting horse buyers and sellers; and Tractor Supply Co.

    "We realized about a year ago on equine.com that a substantial portion of our sellers were actually rescues paying to post their ads on the site," says Dave Andrick, publisher of equine.com.

    The company set aside a portion of the site to allow rescues to posts ads at no cost. Also, each non-profit horse rescue can establish a dedicated page on the site.

    The ads give key details, such as the breed, sex, color, foal date, weight and a scale gauging the animal's temperament. An adoption fee is typically required, often about $500. Some fees are higher, even topping $1,000. A few are free.

    Money from adoption fees go to support the horse rescue shelter, paying for items such as feed and veterinary care, says Ericka Caslin, the Unwanted Horse Coalition's director.

    "It's a high-traffic portion of our site," Andrick says. "It's very easy to use and it's a big attraction for the shelters."

    In time, the site will also showcase sponsorships for specific horses and establish a foster program, finding temporary homes for horses awaiting permanent homes, Andrick says.

    The site went live in early 2012. By summer, the site featured ads for nearly 500 rescue horses, as well as dedicated pages for nearly 100 horse rescues.

    No one knows exactly how many horses need new homes, but estimates by the Unwanted Horse Coalition put the number between 170,000 and 180,000. Money often drives the problem, director Caslin says. While some animals are left homeless because of age, illness, or poor temperament, "the most common reason is that an owner can no longer afford a horse," she says.

    'THERE AREN'T ANY WORDS'

    The story of Zodiac, the worst case faced by Days End Farm, shows every horse can find a home.

    Unable to stand for treatment when he first arrived at the rescue, Zodiac spent nine weeks in a sling. Gauged on a scale to determine if a horse falls into a healthy weight range, Zodiac's was the lowest possible score — a one on a nine-point scale.

    "If we could have used negative numbers, we would have, but the scale doesn't go that low," says Caroline Robertson, the rescue's development director. "There aren't any words. When he got here, he was trying to eat anything from stone-dust to wood to try to survive."

    This spring, however, 9-year-old Zodiac was adopted to a new home. While not strong enough to support a rider, he is a companion animal to other horses.

    No one knows exactly how many horses need new homes, but estimates by the Unwanted Horse Coalition put the number between 170,000 and 180,000.

    Money often drives the problem, director Caslin says. While some animals are left homeless because of age, illness, or poor temperament, "the most common reason is that an owner can no longer afford a horse," she says.

    Feeding and sheltering a horse, which has an average life expectancy of about 25 years, costs at least $2,300 annually, which does not include shoeing or veterinary bills. Similarly, financially strapped horse owners may also find the cost of euthanasia and burying a horse — often averaging between $300 and $500 — impossible to pay.

    The coalition was created in 2005 after the Unwanted Horse Summit organized by the American Association of Equine Practitioners and in conjunction with the American Horse Council. The economic decline just a few years after the coalition's creation left even more horses in distress. "We have seen the problem become worse," Caslin says.

    The coalition works to support horse rescue organizations and to educate horse owners and buyers. "We don't want to turn people away from the horse industry, but it is a responsibility, and it's a big one."

    With about 30 horse-focused organizations as members of the coalition, as well as a network of about 650 rescues, the framework to support unwanted horses is expanding.

    "We have so many great rescues that are making an active, fantastic effort to adopt horses to wonderful homes. They're making daily efforts to market themselves and to market their horses," Caslin says. "Some fantastic horses have come out of our rescues. Some top show horses and fantastic family horses."

    Few have Zodiac's story, but he is a welcome addition at his adopted home, sometimes displaying a surprising friskiness.

    "We introduced him to a new horse and he couldn't stand to be separated," Robertson says, chuckling. "He hopped over a fence to get to his new buddy."

    Noble Sprayberry is a frequent contributor to Out Here.

    Web Extra
    If you'd like to see three more horse rescue success stories, click here.
     

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