Preparing for Off-site Equine Adoption Events
Participating in an adoption barn or taking your adoptable horses to an equine event is a great way to bring exposure to your organization and connect your horses to loving homes. As a bonus, you’ll reach new adopters (and donors), which benefits horses nationwide.
Whether you’re heading to a local exposition or joining our ASPCA Right Horse program for an adoption fair on the road, here are a few tips to make sure you’re putting your best hoof forward.
What to Know Before You Go
Your first order of business after confirming your participation and reserving your stalls is to check the venue’s health requirements. Some facilities want proof of vaccination within 6 months, so make sure you know these requirements well in advance so you can coordinate with your veterinarian.
Next, you need to tentatively pick which horses will be attending. It’s a good idea to select horses and ponies of a variety of sizes and training levels to accommodate a diverse range of adopters. The horses will be exposed to a lot of new sounds, sights, and activities, so select horses that won’t be easily stressed by the many visitors. Additionally, make time in your training plans to practice trailer loading and handling horses in different locations and scenarios.
And don’t forget to tell your followers where you’ll be! Promote your adoptable horses and attendance on social media, so prospective homes know to look for you at the event. Make sure the horses’ adoption listings are up to date on your website and My Right Horse, and take new photos to help them look their best.
The Final Touches
As the week of the event draws near, it’s time to promote your horses and pack your saddle bags. Make sure your horse’s coats are glistening and, if appropriate, you’ve shortened their manes and clipped their legs and bridlepath.
Next, it’s time to pack! We’ve compiled a handy list for you to use; this is the time to break out your branded gear and nice tack, such as halters or sheets in your organization’s colors and/or name. Bonus: take time to understand the type of event you’re going to attend and try to bring gear that’s appropriate to your audience, such as discipline-specific saddles, bridles, and training equipment.
These events are a great place to gain donors and supporters, so plan to bring branded stall drapes or signs if you have them. It’s also a good idea to bring a small table where you can put out a donation box and literature about your organization. Make sure each horse’s information is clearly posted on their stall door; consider creating and displaying QR codes so potential adopters can read in-depth profiles and watch videos easily from their smart phones. Signage should clearly communicate how adopters can get in touch to learn more and move forward in the adoption process. Banners for your stall fronts and pull-up signage can also be helpful in drawing attention to your horses and work. And don’t forget the horses at home that you were unable to bring; find a fun way to display your home herd to help them find adopters.
Now that you’ve arrived, the real fun begins. After setting up your stalls and getting your horses settled, it’s important to prepare them for the many visitors that’ll be coming by. Use the quiet time at check-in to walk them around the grounds and get them acclimated to the venue. If appropriate, a quiet lunge or ride in the mornings and/or in the evenings can help settle their nerves and keep them relaxed in the new setting. Then, when adopters are visiting, you can ensure your horse is relaxed and prepared, to show off their skills.
Adoption events and expos can be busy, so it helps to have a few volunteers on-hand so you can rotate shifts and move or adjust horses based on how they’re doing. Be prepared to answer questions about horses, and don’t be afraid to work as a team with other participating organizations. Don’t have the right horse for an adopter? Send them to the next barn aisle to meet their match! It’s important that adopters have a great experience and feel supported.
If you need to step away, make sure someone nearby knows how to contact you or leave your contact information for potential adopters.
That’s a Wrap!
Adoption events are a powerful way to bring visibility to your work and mission. While they take a little planning and preparation, the time spent will only accrue value over the years as the horse-loving public becomes more familiar with equine adoption. If you’re an ASPCA Right Horse Partner learn more about upcoming adoption events. If you’re not yet a Partner, join the Warm-Up Ring and join us at the next event to make friends, find homes, and have fun!
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