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Life After Racing > Standardbred Safety Net >Re-Home Your Horse

Not every horse will stay in use in the traditional outlets of racing or breeding throughout their lives. Some horse owners are able to keep a horse throughout their lives. For those that cannot do so, here are some tips on finding a useful, secure future for your horse.

I have a horse that can no longer earn his keep and I cannot keep him indefinitely. What do I do?

There are a variety of options for such a horse. Before the horse leaves your care, you may wish to convert their registration to Pleasure Horse Registration. More information on that option can be found here. If it is your intention that the horse never be raced or bred, you can ensure those intentions are honored by converting the registration at no cost to you.

You may also wish to enroll the horse in the USTA's Full Circle program. Full Circle records your name in the horse's Pathway file as wanting to be notified if the horse ever needs help and the horse is no longer in your care. If the horse is no longer in your care, this is a way to ensure you are notified if the horse needs help after they have left your care. There is no charge for Full Circle enrollment, no obligation and more information can be found here.

What about adoption programs?

You can see if a horse adoption program has room for and will accept your horse. Here is a link to programs that have accepted Standardbreds in the past.

Such groups typically have long waiting lists, so you may have to care for the horse for an extended period of time before they are accepted. Adoption groups are best able to place sound, sane horses. Almost never does a program accept stallions. If your horse needs to be gelded, do so at your expense so that the horse can be considered by an adoption program.

Most groups require a donation before they will accept a horse. You should plan to send the horse with a donation to help cover his care until he is adopted as well as the group's cost in screening potential adopters, marketing the horse to potential adopters, training them to carry a rider, long term follow up and re-placement if needed, throughout their life. The group is undertaking possible lifelong care for your unwanted animal, one that can easily live 25-30 years and is a financial liability to you. Their costs could be well in to the thousands of dollars.

What should I look for in selecting an adoption program?

A group that is a registered, federally approved charity with 501c3 status is subject to reporting and accountability standards that private groups are not subject to. That does not mean a private program is not well run and financially responsible and does not guarantee that a registered group is, either. Generally, financial donations to a 501c3 horse adoption group will be tax deductible. Check with your tax professional to determine the extent of all deductions.

Some factors to consider are support of a board of directors with expertise in caring for horses and ties to the equine community, and references from others who have placed or adopted from the group. Some equine charities can be reviewed online via Guidestar (www.Guidestar.org), a non-profit that provides information on registered 501c3 charities. You may also wish to review their requirements and procedures for screening adopters to ensure careful and secure placement.

Horses live a very long time and to some owners placing horses, it is important that a group follow and agree to re-place a horse if need be. Adopters may lose their job, move, lose interest or otherwise be able to care for a horse for all of their lives.

If an approved adopter is unable to care for a horse and has no option to return the horse to the group that placed it, that horse's future becomes unprotected and unclear.

Is there a ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for horse adoption groups?

Not exactly. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), a trade group of horse veterinarians, has voluntary standards to which some groups adhere. If that information is not posted on their site, ask.

The Global Federal of Animal Sanctuaries has an accreditation program that includes some equine welfare groups.

What about private sale or adoption?

You can offer your horse for sale or ‘free to a good home’ either privately or through classified ads. If it is your intention that horse never race or have progeny registered, you must convert their registration to Pleasure Horse Registration while you are still listed as owner and while they are still in your custody. Otherwise, the horse's registration cannot be converted and is not protected from racing or being bred. Read more about how to do that here.

If you are concerned about the long term welfare of your horse, due diligence is in order. You may wish to speak to the next owner's vet, farrier, get their name and confirm their identity and/or ask for personal references. If possible, take a look at their farm, fences, talk to neighbors. If they say the horse is going to a therapeutic riding program, visit it and confirm with their staff. Google their name and ‘horse.’ Appearing at your farm with a small child and a horse trailer does not constitute ability and willingness to provide a lifelong home for a horse.

You can ask that they return the horse if they are ever unable to care for them. This works very well with honest and forthright people. Otherwise, your only defense is regular follow up and farm visits by you or someone you trust, if the person adopting the horse agrees to those terms. Even someone who has been thoroughly checked by you can give or sell the horse to someone without regard to their intentions or qualifications. They may change hands many times in their lives after the person you gave or sold the horse to sells or gives them away.

What about a horse who is lame or has behavior problems?

Such a horse is unlikely to be accepted by an adoption program or by an individual who genuinely wants to care for the horse long term, even if offered for free. If you can provide the horse treatment or training to resolve their problems, their odds of finding a secure placement will increase.

If training or treatment is either unsuccessful or not an option, you may wish to consider euthanization to ensure the horse does not suffer outside your care or cause harm to another person or animal.

A horse dealer has offered to take my horse, no matter their condition, and find him a good home. What about that option?

There are horse brokers that work at or close to racetracks and training centers, offering $200-$400 a horse. They are business people whose primary concern is to make a profit on your horse. The market for horses off the racetrack, untrained to ride, which may also have physical limitations or injuries, is not with the general public looking for a riding horse or pet.

If it is a major concern that your horse has a safe, secure future with someone whose background and ability to care for a horse has been verified, you are mostly likely to find that with an adoption group.