The horse industry has followed other economic trends over the years, and with the current recession, this appears to hold true. The equine population equals 1 horse per 24 people in Denton County, and with the economic downturn, a few horse owners are looking for some type of relief from the expenses associated with equine ownership.
The estimated cost of providing basic care, excluding veterinary and farrier fees, for a horse ranges from $1,800 to $2,400 annually. Considering a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years, the cost can be up to $72,000 per horse.
So what happens if an owner is no longer financially capable of providing this basic care?
First and foremost, horse owners should be responsible and keep in mind the welfare of the animal.
One option is to sell the horse, either via private treaty or through a bonded auction facility. Leasing or handing over short-term ownership to a friend or neighbor so the horse can be used as a pasture mate or a companion animal also is worth consideration.
Charitable donation of horses to a worthy organization such as a therapeutic riding program or police department gives the horse a chance at a second career. Donation to an equine college or university, or even to a horse retirement facility, is yet another option.
Another alternative might be adoption by a horse rescue group that provides a vital service in this area. Some of these groups are registered as nonprofit and others are privately owned. Keep in mind that there is no national body that provides oversight or accreditation for these facilities, so in the horse’s best interest, the owner should visit the facility to ensure that horses have proper care and available space.
More information on such facilities is listed by state online at www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org.
There are state and local animal rescue plans in place to be implemented during a natural disaster, such as with Hurricane Ike. Unfortunately, unemployment and recession does not fall under those plans.
Most industries are suffering nowadays and the equine sector is no exception. But it is still the responsibility of the horse owner to ensure that the animals’ basic needs are met until ownership has been transferred, preferably using the best method available.
EDDIE BAGGS, extension agent with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Denton County, can be reached at 940-349-2880.