How Much is Too Much?

March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

You see it all the time.  A rescue takes in a horse.  It’s a train wreck of health issues.  Not only is it severely malnourished (which can cause a host of problems on its own), but it can barely stand, has old gaping wounds that haven’t healed, has lice, needs its teeth floated which they can’t do because the tranquilizer would kill it, isn’t gelded… well, you get the picture.

Best of both worlds... neglected THEN sent to slaughter.

Best of both worlds... neglected THEN sent to slaughter.

It seems like the worst of the worst cases have a multitude of issues.

Then, in a large number of these rescue cases the horses photos are plastered all over the internet, and it gets cross posted everywhere.  Inevitably there are many, many comments of which approximately 80% are of the “omg poor horse hope he makes it” variety, another 10% are of the “omg poor horse where do I donate” variety, and the last 10% are of the “omg poor horse why don’t you put it out of its misery” variety.

Because every horse is different and has its own story, it is difficult to determine what is the right thing to do.  Most people feel that every horse deserves a chance.  This writer feels that to be the case as well.  But I am also a realist.  This is a complex issue, with many factors.


There are countless healthy, well trained, deserving horses on their way to slaughter right now.  For a nominal amount of money any one of those horses could be plucked from a certain brutal death, and, with another nominal amount of money have some extra training put on them and be adopted out via one of the many networks online.  This scenario is already happening across North America.


Horse Slaughter

Horse Slaughter

Many instances of neglect are simply a lack of nutrition and general lack of care – but they aren’t wounded and in need of anything more than some groceries, vaccinations and Farrier care.  Again, for a nominal fee these horses could be brought to health and fitness easily and adopted to good loving homes.

Throwing Money Away

Ok, before you get all up in arms, I don’t believe it is “throwing money away” to rehabilitate a horse.  Any horse.

That being said, I feel there is a HUGE line between a legitimate rescue (registered charity, 501(c)3 or non-profit) that takes in donations from the pubic – including corporate sponsors, etc. – and a “regular joe” who takes in a horse here and there to rehabilitate on their own and pays for it out of their own pocket.  If you are a legitimate rescue using donated funds towards rescuing and rehabilitating horses there is an expectation, and in some cases a legal requirement, for transparency.

And here’s the rub.  Should a rescue use donated funds to bring back the “train wreck”?

My Opinion


A rescue should be first and foremost dedicated to saving as many horses as possible from neglect, abuse, and slaughter.  If you want to concentrate on a particular breed, go ahead… I get that.  Every person who rescues generally started out because of a particular horse of a particular breed.  Everyone has their “favorite” when it comes to color, breed, sex, etc.  Fine.  But like I said, a rescue should be first and foremost dedicated to saving as many horses as possible from neglect, abuse, and slaughter.  If you are spending an exorbitant amount of money on one horse, it is at the risk and detriment to other horses that could be saved with that money.

What I am suggesting is that rescues should have a policy in place, just like any other business practice, that specifies or limits how much money will be spent, in general, per horse.

That might sound a little harsh, but I think if you hear me out, you’ll understand what I’m saying.


I don’t run a rescue.  Not one that receives donations anyway.  But with my animals – whether dogs, cats or horses – I always have numbers in my head.  What I would be willing to spend in case of emergency.  Some of it has to do with how much money is in the bank.  Some of it hinges on the animals age and general health.  And some of it is dependent on what kind of animal I’m thinking about.  I know the vet bill for the horse is going to outweigh the vet bill for the cat on any given day.  Because there are so many variables, I consider it a sliding, or variable, scale.

For the horses, this sliding or variable scale takes into account age, health, whether it’s a rescue or a personal horse, the immediate medical bill potential, the possible outcome from treatment, potential future medical bills (pertaining to the current health issue or crisis) and ultimate recovery / riding potential / adoption potential.

Doesn’t it make sense to set this up when you’re setting up your business practices?  I mean, if I have this in my head (and honestly, partially written out in my “in case of emergency and I’m not here” book – stay tuned for a new post on that) why can’t rescues do this?

The Train Wreck

So what do we do with the train wreck?  If the horse, no matter what you potentially spend on it, is going to come out the other end (still) old, lame, unable to be ridden, etc. my suggestion is humane euthanasia.  You take that train wreck of a horse, and you give it love, apples, carrots, hugs, pets, and kind words… and you let him go to sleep feeling what is probably the only kindness he can remember.


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