Finding homes for special needs equine may seem like a daunting task. Will people willingly take on the responsibility of a horse they can’t ride? Happily, in many cases the answer is yes!
Read on to learn how two organizations find good homes for unrideable horses.
Embrace Untraditional Homes
Unrideable horses can thrive in a variety of homes, including some unexpected ones.
Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society in College Station, TX, has found placements for horses at a local bed and breakfast. The B&B’s proprietors wanted to play up their bucolic setting and provide guests with the opportunity to interact with friendly horses. Their adopted horses love receiving attention—and carrots—from visitors and, in turn, the visitors enjoy their time socializing with the horses.
Dr. Jennifer Williams, executive director of Bluebonnet, says horses placed as “pasture ornaments” may indeed beautify the landscape, but she is also careful to home them with people who will also love and care for them.
Williams reports that Bluebonnet has also successfully placed horses with therapeutic, charter and state schools. The horses can teach, responsibility in the form of daily care, and even serve as therapists. Some kids “tell their troubles to the horses, opening up the way to healing,” she says.
And, in some cases, horses who are not particularly affectionate are perfect for therapeutic programs, because students who are prone to withdrawing from human interaction work hard to receive the reward of the horse’s affection.
Consider Fee-Waived Adoptions
The SPCA of Texas in Dallas uses a tried-and-true marketing technique for adopting out unrideable horses: two for the price of one!
Approved adopters who pay an adoption fee for a rideable horse may bring home an unrideable companion horse for free. This is an especially effective technique because the agency requires that all adopted horses have at least one companion in their new home.
It’s a win-win-win: The horses get a home with someone they already know, the adopters get two horses for the price of one, and the shelter can now help another horse in need.
Share Their Stories
Both agencies agree that sharing a horse’s story is key to finding him or her a home. People want to know as much about the horse’s background as possible—both the good and the bad.
Was the horse a successful former racer who is now lame? Or maybe he was part of a seizure and suffered neglect that led to a chronic medical condition. Whatever the horse’s history, share it so that people can begin to empathize with the animal and create a connection to him or her.
If the horse comes from a challenging background or has medical issues, be honest with potential adopters so they fully understand what their commitment entails. This will foster trust, establish your organization as reputable and prevent returns down the road.
Get Them in the Public Eye
If possible, take unrideable horses to events and media appearances so they will get exposure to potential adopters. People may not have considered keeping a horse for companionship, therapy or as a “pasture ornament.”
When taking horses out in public, Maura Davies, VP of marketing and communications, suggests writing “Adopt Me” on their hind quarters with non-toxic paint, to further advertise their availability.
The agency also does paid advertisements for their limited-riding horses in local trail-riding magazines to get the horses in front of audiences that may be looking for casual riding companions.
Give Adopters (and Horses) a Chance
Williams warns that as horse lovers, “it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re the only one who can love and care for your horses.” This mindset prevents horses from going to good homes, discourages adoption in general and prevents you from helping more horses.
And believing in the horses is also important. “Don’t think a history of abuse is insurmountable,” says Williams. With time, love and proper care, most horses are quite resilient.