At Equine Legal Solutions, we receive a
surprising number of inquiries about equine
donations gone awry. Unfortunately,
giving away a horse is a lot like selling it
– the only real difference is that you
don’t receive any money in exchange for
giving up the rights of ownership. Once
the horse leaves your possession, you have
very little control over its future.
are some tips to help ensure that a horse you
give away lives out his days in a good home:
Much like charging a modest adoption fee
for puppies and kittens, you can help protect
your horse by selling him for a modest price
that reflects his condition, training, or
other reasons you are giving him away.
Having to pay even a modest amount of cash for
a horse helps screen out well-meaning folks
who might not have thought carefully enough
about the adoption as well as folks with a
more sinister motive.
In difficult economic times, many horse
owners are faced with the choice of giving
away hard-to-sell horses because they simply
cannot afford to care for them any longer.
Many times, the economic situation is
temporary. In these cases, it may make
sense to lease your horses to caring folks
instead of selling them or giving them away.
ELS offers tips
for leasing your horse.
There are many charitable organizations that
might be interested in adopting your horse and
giving him a useful life. Rescue
organizations are an obvious choice – see
the “Rescue” section of the Bay
Area Equestrian Network’s Business
Directory. There are also more creative
options. If your horse is serviceably
sound with a very quiet temperament, he may be
well-suited to a therapeutic riding program
– see “Therapeutic Riding Programs” in
the BAEN business directory. Many
university equestrian programs depend upon
donated horses and it is a tax-deductible way
to support your alma mater. You might
also try contacting local 4-H clubs and Pony
Clubs to see if there is a match for your
horse. Remember how badly you wanted a
horse as a youngster – there are kids out
there who might LOVE to have your horse.
Finally, there are kind folks out there who
just want a companion horse or lawn ornament
– reach out to them in the ways described
above for finding a lost horse.
the Adoptive Home
In Equine Legal Solutions’ practice, we have
heard horrible stories about what can happen
to a donated horse, from starvation to being
sold at meat auctions. We can’t
emphasize enough that you should go and
personally inspect the place where your horse
will be living, even if you are donating your
horse to an organization that appears
legitimate. Check out the condition of
the place and the condition of the other
animals on the property – are the stalls
clean and the animals well-fed and in good
shape? Chat with the people there and
ask to see the feed your horse will receive
(bad hay is a bad sign). Ask them for
veterinarian and farrier references, then call
those references! Trust your instincts
– if you’re not sure, don’t give them
a Written Agreement
Most charitable organizations that routinely
accept donated horses will ask you to sign a
donation agreement (and if they don’t,
they should, for their own protection).
Make sure that you read anything that you are
asked to sign carefully, noting what it says
about what will happen if the organization
doesn’t keep your horse. Ask for a
copy of the agreement to take home with you.
Equine Legal Solutions has a Equine
Donation Agreement form that clarifies the
terms under which you are giving the horse
away, and can help protect you from liability
in the event that your horse injures someone
after he has left your care.