The reality of the never-ending stream of abused and abandoned horses is a bitter pill to swallow. The state that these animals are found in is truly heartbreaking. For the ‘lucky’ few who do make it to rescue organisations, the journey has only begun. Horses suffer from post-traumatic stress and do struggle to move past their bad experiences. Taking in a rescue horse is a challenging task, but is very rewarding at the same time.

HQ had the opportunity to chat to Joanne Pursey of the Highveld Horse Care Unit (HHCU) about the requirements and procedures that come with adopting a rescue horse. Joanne provides advice on how to go about choosing the right rescue horse for you and also highlights the importance of understanding the background of your rescue.

The procedure of taking in a rescue

Like with any animal adoption, there is a strict process that needs to be followed in order to see whether you qualify. Because the horses who are up for adoption come from troubled backgrounds, it’s imperative to find the best new home for them where their individual personalities can be accommodated. The horses have to first undergo a rehabilitation process before they are eligible for adoption. If it’s possible, a full background of the rescue is taken. Following this, the horse is vetted, dewormed and vaccinated as well as having his teeth and feet assessed. Noting his behaviour, whether it be in the stable, in hand or under saddle, is important as it can help find the most suitable new owner.
Joanne explains that the process for adopting a horse from HHCU is a simple task. In order to adopt a horse from HHCU, an application form, which is found on the HHCU website, needs to be filled in and submitted. “Put as much information as you can on the application form – remember that it is our responsibility to make sure that we have found the absolute best home for each individual horse that we possibly can,” says Joanne. If you want to adopt a rescue to ride him, the inspectors will need to assess your riding skills and the manner in which you interact with a horse. A home inspection is always carried out. If you do not meet the certain predetermined requirements, you will be advised on what to do. Joanne explains that HHCU will continue to check up on and monitor the rescue horse for the rest of his life and will provide assistance should any problem arise with him.

Are you ready to commit to a rescue?

Taking in a rescue horse is no walk in the park. Rescue horses require a lot of time, effort and, occasionally, money above the cost of their basic care. Many rescue horses are in need of veterinary care, special supplements, or intensive farrier services or medication. Expenses should decrease after the horse has been properly rehabilitated, but it’s important to consider the initial costs of taking in a rescue. Many of the rescue horses who come from damaged backgrounds struggle to adapt to a new home. It’s important that you are prepared for training and behavioural challenges. Many of the neglected horses had little if any human contact for extended periods of time. A percentage of these horses who have had contact with humans have had unpleasant experiences, which can influence the way they interact with people going forward. To play it safe, treat each encounter, regardless of the horse’s background, with patience and with caution. Don’t expect to ride the rescue until the safe and desirable body weight has been achieved. This doesn’t mean you can’t work with him in hand, and you should take this time to bond with him. Rescue horses can be hostile to their new owners as a result of their previous homes. “The horses are used to fighting for food, being pressurised to work under painful or unpleasant circumstances, and the only way that they have survived so far is by fighting and resistance. Calm, kind, firm handling will normally win at the end of the day,” explains Joanne. Introducing a rescue to the rest of the herd is a task that needs to be executed with great caution.

Text by: Jessi Louw

The full article appears in the January issue (118) of HQ magazine > Shop now