This is the time of the year than many consider donating to a worthy cause.  Here are a few organizations that exist to help unwanted, aged and retired horses find homes and veterinary care.

The Unwanted Horse Coalition “is a broad alliance of equine organizations that have joined together under the American Horse Council to educate the horse industry about the problem of the unwanted horse.”

The Unwanted Horse Colaition:

grew out of the Unwanted Horse Summit, which was organized by the American Association of Equine Practitioners and held in conjunction with the American Horse Council’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in April 2005. The summit was held to bring key stakeholders together to start a dialogue on the plight of the unwanted horse in America. Its purpose was to develop consensus on the most effective way to work together to address this issue. In June 2006, the Unwanted Horse Coalition was folded into the American Horse Council and now operates under its auspices.

Another nonprofit, A Home for Every Horse,

created in 2011, is the result of a partnership between the Equine Network, the nation’s leading publisher of equine-related content, and the Unwanted Horse Coalition. The AHFEH program helps connect rescue horses in need of homes with people looking for horses. Registered 501(c)(3) rescue organizations can list their horses for free on Equine.com, the world’s largest horse marketplace, where they can be seen by 300,000 visitors each month.If that is the case for you, I invite you to consider donating to the Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines, a nonprofit that has been dedicated to providing a home to horses that have no other home.

Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines “is the oldest non-profit horse sanctuary in United States and provides a haven for horses of all breeds, sizes, and walks of life. The residents of the 300-acre farm are primarily retired horses—aged 20 or older—many with chronic health issues. Upon arrival, all veterinary care, farrier care, dental care, food, bedding, and shelter is provided for the rest of the horse’s life.

Ryerss Farm’s mission includes:

caring for aged, abused or injured horses, providing a home where they can spend their golden years out to pasture.  The horses at Ryerss are never worked, go to auction or are used for experiments.  They simply spend their days grazing and enjoying life with their friends, as part of the herd.

Ryerss Farm received the 2017 Lavin Cup, an award “[k]nown as the American Association of Equine Practitioner [AAEP]’s equine welfare award . . . [which] recognizes a non-veterinary organization or individual that has distinguished itself through service to improve the welfare of horses.”

As AAEP noted:

Ryerss’ legacy began in Philadelphia in 1888, established by Anne Waln-Ryerss who was a passionate advocate for the city’s abused and neglected horses. The first horse arrived on the farm in 1889 and Ryerss’ early residents were old hunters, ponies, workhorses, and retired horses that used to pull Philadelphia’s fire engines. Ryerss is open to the public daily and receives approximately 5,000 visitors each calendar year.

The Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign was established by Merck Animal Health and the American Association of Equine Practitioners Homes “to help the overburdened equine rescues and retirement facilities provide healthcare so they can rehabilitate, revitalize and, ultimately, re-home America’s unwanted horses.”

Through the Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign ” qualifying equine rescue and retirement facilities can receive complimentary equine vaccines for horses in their care, protecting the horses’ health and making them more adoptable.”

For veterinarians and equine rescue organizations who want more information about this program, please visit The Unwanted Horse website.

Horses in New Jersey are highly regarded.  When designating the horse as New Jersey’s state animal in 1977 Governor Bryne said: “The founding fathers of our state thought so highly of the horse that they included it in our state seal.”

In New Jersey, as specified in the Humane Standards, equine rescue operations must provide care “consistent with the “AAEP Care Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities” or “Equine Rescue and Facility Guidelines, UC Davis.”  N.J.A.C. §2:8-3.6.

Both resources provide comprehensive

guidelines to help ensure that horses maintained within equine sanctuaries and rescue farms receive adequate and proper care.  The guidelines . . . address all issues related to sanctuary management and operations.  They provide information on proper facility design construction and maintenance, suggestions for management and financial organization and instructions on the proper husbandry practices and health care necessary to ensure the successful operations of all types of sanctuary and rescue facilities.

The first section of the UC Davis Guidelines is titled “Operation Business and Financial Plan” emphasizing the importance proper planning and financial support, noting:

The failure rate among animal sanctuaries of all types within the United States is known to be very high, with an average lifespan estimated to be around 3 years and a failure rate in excess of 70% for those facilities that do not own the land being utilized for their operation.  Most of these failures can be attributed to one of two causes; the financial collapse of the entity due to poor business planning and/or practices, or the lack of a defined plan of succession for key management personnel.

AAEP’s Guidelines include the following chapters:

Chapter I: Basic Health Management

Chapter II: Nutrition

Chapter III: Basic Hoof Care

Chapter IV: Caring for the Geriatric Horse

Chapter V: Shelter, Stalls & Horse Facilities

Chapter VI: Pastures, Paddocks & Fencing

Chapter VII: Euthanasia

Chapter VIII: The Bottom Line: Welfare of the Horse.

The importance of caring for new horses entering a rescue facility should include a complete physical examination, a method of identification, the establishment of a medical record, proper nutritional assessments and preventive medical care.  Special attention to the nutritional needs of previously starving horses is critical, and recommendations include oversight by veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists to ensure that the appropriate type, amount and frequency of feeding is provided.

If horses are provided too much feed too quickly after starvation, death can ensue.  According to UC Davis “[t]he ‘refeeding syndrome’ has been reported in horses with abrupt refeeding of concentrated calories causing death in 3 days.”

Despite these requirements, there is no indication that there is sufficient oversight in New Jersey over equine rescue facilities.

The State permits but does not require registration of animal rescue organizations and facilities.

4:19-15.33  Registry of animal rescue organizations, facilities
a. The Department of Health shall establish a registry of animal rescue organizations and their facilities in the State.  Any animal rescue organization may voluntarily participate in the registry.

b.The department, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), may adopt any rules and regulations determined necessary to implement the voluntary registry and coordinate its use with the provisions of P.L.2011, c.142 (C.4:19-15.30 et al.) and section 16 of P.L.1941, c.151 (C.4:19-15.16).

Of the 74 registered rescues as of March 16, 2017, none appear to be equine rescue facilities.

Historically, when large numbers of horses in the state have been the subject of animal cruelty investigations, their care has been improperly supervised.

Recent events reveal that nothing has changed.

It is time that the State, with its depth of talented, experienced equine practitioners, animal scientists and veterinary nutritionists at Rutgers University and Centenary College, and the Certified Livestock Inspectors at the NJDA-Division of Animal Health, take a hard look at the current state of affairs for horses in need of care in the Garden State.