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Wild horse and burro adoption advice

“Ask the vet live!” was the name of an online webinar sponsored Sept. 21 by the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program. The webinar discussed wild horse and burro adoptions and the issues facing the equine industry with unwanted horses.

With the current drought, high hay prices and other factors, more horses are in need of homes and many people have questions about horse adoption and rescue. The BLM webinar featured two expert panelists offering advice on this topic.

The panel included Julia Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, president of Turner Wilson Equine Consulting, LLC, who is a strong advocate for solving the issue of “unwanted” horses. Wilson serves as an advisor to the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation and helps organize Minnesota’s Gelding Project, which provides equine castration for financially challenged horse owners. She is also a co-founder of the Equitarian Initiative, which educates veterinarians to provide community service and health care to working donkeys, mules and horses in poor areas.



Joining Wilson was Albert J. Kane, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D., senior staff veterinarian for the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. His professional interests include the welfare and health management of wild horses and burros and the prevention of wastage and injury in performance horses.

“After horses are rescued from a bad situation, the next challenge is finding them a good home,” Wilson said. “Too often the groups who spearhead these rescues forget to market the horses they acquire. A good rescue helps place horses, as well as remove them from negative scenarios. I encourage friends who might want a horse to look at a shelter or rescue facility first. There is a rescue that I have had the privilege to work with that is working with the mainstream media to help bring about awareness of unwanted horses and help advertise the idea of adopting a rescued horse.”



Where should families seek out these horses for adoption?

“It’s hard to know about all the facilities across the U.S. that assist with the adoption of unwanted horse,” Kane said. “Some states have started creating rescue facilities that have horses available. The American Horse Council Unwanted Horse Coalition has a directory of facilities, most of which do adoptions. Another option for folks to consider is just leasing a horse and enjoying it for a few years.”

Are all rescues created equally? How are they monitored and regulated?

“What makes a good rescue?” asked Wilson. “At this point, there are no standards; rescues pretty much rely on public opinion. So, whoever is the appropriate authority in your area can oversee these rescues. The Global Federation of Sanctuaries has pretty stringent criteria for what it takes to have a good rescue.”

Wilson said one way to figure out if a facility follows positive rescue and adoption standards is to explore whether the organization has a high adoption rate.

“A high adoption rate is a good reflection of those who are doing a great job of meeting the needs of the community and the horses,” said Wilson. “A good facility will usually have a good volunteer base that helps fix fence, walk an overweight horse or fundraise for the organization. They take the time to place horses and match them with families.”

In a poll taken during the webinar, 39 percent of participants had previously adopted from a rescue group, and another 43 percent adopted from an individual. Only 4 percent had adopted from the BLM, however.

“This small statistic needs to change,” Kane said. “More folks need to look at the BLM as a resource for horse adoption. We can help match the ability of the rider to the horse. Just when trying to buy the right horse, you have to find the right match. This can be a real challenge. Generally, I kind of agree that a novice horse owner should not start with a green horse. Success is really proportional to how much time the owner puts into training, spending time with and bonding that horse. New owners should ask for help. Sometimes because they don’t have any pre-conceived notions, they do well. They are very dedicated. Start with a horse who has some training. If you get stuck, be sure to ask for help before you get hurt, scared or frustrated.”

Wilson agreed with the importance of matching ability of horse and rider and said, “Be frank about kids’ age, who will care for the horse and the needs of the family. A good rescue will help you find a good match. Many rescues will let you foster the horse before you make an official adoption. I think if you are going to make an investment with your heart and pocketbook, you should also visit with a veterinarian before you bring it home.”

For more information on horse adoption, visit out http://www.blm.gov or call 866-468-7826.


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