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Should You Adopt A Horse?

By Jeffrey Rolo

Many programs exist throughout the U.S. that permits you to adopt a horse, provided you meet the qualifications of the particular adoption program. Does this mean horse adoption is an option you should consider? Much depends on the program as well as your experience level.

If you have never owned a horse previously the low initial cost of an adopted horse may seem appealing since prices can range from just under $200.00 through $1,000.00 depending on the program, but the initial appeal can be deceptive since a horse can cost well over $1,000.00 per year to care for – and that doesn't include unforeseen expenses such as emergency medical bills, etc. If price is your primary motivator due to currently being cash poor, you probably should not adopt a horse at this time. Your heart may be in the right place, but it's best to wait until you are reasonably certain you can pay for your horse's necessary living expenses.

Your experience level will also play a major factor in determining whether horse adoption is for you. Whereas there are great horse adoption programs that actually offer trail-ready, trained horses that can appeal to even an inexperienced prospective owner, other programs offer undomesticated horses or horses that may have been neglected or exposed to abuse. In the latter cases it will take time to build a bond of trust between you and your horse, so they aren't recommended for first time horse owners unless the potential owner is confident in his horsemanship.

Another common question people looking into horse adoption will ask is…

If I adopt a horse, do I own him?
The terms will vary among the adoption programs, but in nearly all cases you will first enter a probationary period where you must prove you are capable of providing proper ownership to the horse. Even if you pass this probation period in most programs you will never actually own the horse without conditions. It is estimated that 50% of the various adoption programs will require the organizations consent before approving a transfer of "ownership" from you to another party. About 40% of the horse adoption organizations will forbid any form of transfer of ownership; either you keep it or the agency reclaims it.

Most horse adoption programs will require follow up visits to the adopted horse's premises so the agency can determine to their satisfaction that the horse is being treated well. While perhaps a reasonable requirement for agencies to request, some people will not want the annoyance of follow up visits or people "validating" that they do indeed care for their horses.

I approve highly of the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse adoption program since it strikes the perfect balance between trying to ensure an adopted horse has a good home and allowing you the right of ownership. If you can take care of a horse adopted through their program for the duration of one year, the BLM will transfer the title of ownership to you. We take a closer look at the Bureau of Land Management's horse adoption program in another article.

Most horsemen who adopt a horse ultimately use their horse for pleasure riding, but depending on your horse's age and natural ability you could easily train one to compete in shows. In fact the wild horses offered by the BLM have proven to be serious contenders in endurance competition.

So in summary, if you are shopping for a horse that will be yours free and clear without hassle then adopting a horse may not be quite right for you. On the other hand if you would like to do your part to enrich the lives of a horse that desperately need a caring owner to care for him it would behoove you to research the various adoption agencies and options to find one perfect for you.



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