How to Start a Horse Rescue Business
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How to Start a Horse Rescue Business

How to start a horse rescue charity or business, how to resuce horses from slaughter. How to start a charity for rescuing horses and ponies.

Rescuing Horses is a little bit different than rescuing cats, dogs, and other house pets. Most of these smaller animals are rescued because there are too many of them; they are often given away by their owners for free, or abandoned. As such a rescue for cats, dogs, and so forth, never pays for their rescued animals. Horses, on the other hand, are often “rescued” from the road to the slaughter house – purchased at horse auctions attended by meat buyers and others.

miniature horse

photo by author


A true pet rescue is a charitable organization, one that runs as a non-profit. As such the first thing anyone wishing to form a proper horse rescue organization needs to do is establish themselves as a charity – in most cases they need to form a board of directors.

From that point other issues of licensing, naming, and funding, need to be addressed. It is the job of the board of directors to promote the rescue operation, and do fund raising. Raising funds is very difficult for “new” rescues, as such most rescues, including horse rescue, starts out of the organizers own pockets.


A horse rescue will have to have proper facilities, not unlike running a horse boarding facility; at the very least this means land, and a few buildings. The buildings will have to include a small office space (this can be in a home, or room in a barn). There will need to be shelters for the horses, although a full barn is not needed at the start. There will need to be storage for feed and equipment (halters and so forth).

Most important – there will need to be several corrals. All rescued horses cannot be placed in the same corral, no matter how large it is. Many of these horses will have unknown histories, and must be isolated, some horses could be too weak to be put into a pen with other horses.

Supplies Needed

A horse rescue will need to have the following supplies, some of which are skills rather than actual assets.

Halters, feed buckets, water buckets, grooming equipment, basic horse first aid box, camera, computer. They will need to have a veterinarian, and a farrier, willing to work with their animals (both typically get paid but may offer reduced rates for seeing many horses at once).

The horse rescue will need to have people ready, willing, and capable, to work with horses whom may never have had any training, to clean stalls (if needed), to feed, water, and care for the horses on a day to day basis (most shelters do not pay their staff when they are just starting up).

More Legal

The rescue needs to create relinquishment contracts – for owners who surrender their horses to sign, having the owner relinquish all rights to the horse and provide some history on it.

The rescue needs to create adoption questionnaires – something for potential adopters to fill out to determine suitability.

The rescue needs to create adoption contracts, papers that state which horse is being adopted, the date, for what adoption fee, and under what circumstances. Most adoption contracts include a clause that says the animal cannot be sold or given away for at least a year, and that if there are any problems with the horse in that time that the rescue be contacted, and they will take it back (although typically money is not refunded except if the rescue group was in error someway).  The contracts nearly always forbid using the animal for breeding stock.

How to “Rescue” the Horses

Ideally a rescue does not “buy” its animals, but this is not always the case with horse rescues where some are bought at lower quality auctions to prevent them from going to slaughter. Often time rescues can get foals for free, or cheap, from PMU farms.   Some rescues set up specifically to rescue retired race horses, or former rodeo stock.

By talking to people in the area, including those in the regular pet rescue, and veterinarians, they can get the word out that they will rescue horses in need, as from owners who are unable to provide care for their horse and are considering sending it to slaughter or having it euthanized – due to being unable to sell it otherwise. In these cases the horses should be surrendered to the shelter – often with the owner providing a relinquishment fee to cover some of the horses care expenses.

The horse rescue otherwise does not go out looking for horses to “buy”.

Becoming a proper Horse Rescue is NOT:

  • A way to get “free” horses.
  • A way to collect horses for cheap.
  • A place that buys only the prettiest horses at auction.
  • A place that “keeps” some horses, and adopts out others – ALL rescued horses would be for adoption as long as they are healthy, and safe.

The goal of any horse rescue should be to save the life of an unwanted horse and to re-home it in a good permanent home as soon as possible.

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Comments (3)

nice article.As you said it is quite tough to remain a horse rescuer than the other smaller pets.

Dick Budlong

we have several unwanted horses on our farm that we keep taking in & would like to know about starting a rescue facelity any help you could give me would be verry gratefull thank you & may god bless . Dick

Dick, most tips are already included. You may want to become a non-profit charity, or an actual "business". It will also depend on the demand for horses in your area. I find its way easier to rehome a horse that is well groomed and looking beautiful at all times, than one that is scruffy. You must promote your rescue so people adopt horses from you - the main goal of any rescue is to find new homes for the horses, not to keep getting more. When you get going start a blog on blogger or some free site and promote the heck out of it, add pictures of each horse as they come in, and keep updating it regularly. Use Twitter too.