How Many Unwanted Horses Are Out There?

February 14, 2010

The Unwanted Horse Coalition estimates that there were 170,000 unwanted horses in the United States in 2007. I can’t find a more current estimate, but I don’t imagine that it has dropped significantly since then, and it’s very possible that the number has increased.

A number of factors have contributed to the problem, including:

  • A drop in the horse market due to economic issues.
  • Overbreeding and irresponsible breeding.
  • The ban on horse slaughter for human consumption.
  • The Premarin industry.
  • Droughts, floods and high fuel prices, which drive up the cost of hay and grain.
  • Owners “dumping” unwanted horses instead of euthanizing them (sometimes due to the high cost of euthanizing and disposing of a horse).
  • Owners losing jobs, property, etc. and having to give up horses.

I’ll be addressing most of these in greater detail later, but taken together, they’ve created a situation in which rescue organizations and humane societies are literally overflowing with homeless horses. Some of them are young, trained and healthy. Others weren’t trained properly or were injured in the course of their work. And many simply committed the sin of getting too old and weak to be useful. Even in good economic times, the market for unrideable horses is almost nonexistent, so the best these horses can hope for is to become permanent residents of a rescue organization, supported through their retirement by donations and volunteers.