Exciting newly-published research suggests there could be at least 1.2 million households—or approximately 2.3 million adults—in the United States with both the resources and desire to adopt horses in need. This discovery indicates that there is a population ready to absorb horses most at risk.
Estimates vary about the number of horses who need homes every year across the country, with the highest estimates edging at close to 200,000. The actual number is likely lower, as that estimate assumes every horse sent to slaughter has no other option—but even if the high estimate was correct, the study indicates there are many homes available for those at-risk horses.
The study Estimating the Availability of Potential Homes for Unwanted Horses in the United States was published in July and focused on identifying potential available homes for horses.
According to the Unwanted Horse Coalition there are an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 horses housed by rescues at any given time. This is a fluid number as many of those horses are routinely being rehomed and opening space for additional horses. One U.S. study found the most common horse-related reasons horses were relinquished to rescue organizations were health (54 percent), lack of suitability for desired purpose (28 percent) and behavioral problems of the horses (28 percent). Owner-related factors most commonly reported were financial hardship (52 percent), physical illness or death of the owner (27 percent) and lack of time for the horse (16 percent).
A typical horse has a life-span of more than 20 years and will have several owners over the course of his life. While most will find owners who love and cherish them, some will fall victim to abuse, neglect, or even death at a slaughter plant. Many animal welfare organizations throughout the country are working to make sure that doesn’t happen.