The Plight of the Unwanted Horse
By Ruth Bourgeois

      The term "unwanted horse" describes horses within the domestic equine population that are considered no longer useful or needed, or whose owners are either uninterested or incapable for providing care for them, physically or financially. This is not a new problem, but it is a growing concern for a number of reasons. Perhaps one of these reasons is an increased public awareness of the problem, as shown by the recently formed coalition to deal with this issue. It could also be due to society's demand for fair treatment of animals. Like child abuse and abuse of women, abuse of animals is not acceptable and there is no need to tolerate it. In the past few decades, concerned citizens have spoken out and been instrumental in the passage of laws to address animal cruelty and neglect.
      New Mexico has laws to protect horses along with other domestic animals. Unfortunately, like all other law enforcement matters, the laws are only as good as the manpower to enforce them allows, and as law officers are made aware of situations that need to be addressed. It's important that we support the system that is in place when we learn of an abusive situation. At the same time, it is the duty and obligation of law officers to investigate alleged reports of abuse and neglect.
      There is often a difference between an unwanted horse and an abused horse. Just because a horse is unwanted, it is not necessarily an abuse case. More often, an unwanted horse is one that may have suffered an injury and is no longer sound for riding or working; it may be a pony that was outgrown by the child he was originally purchased for; it may be a perfectly sound, healthy horse whose owner simply lost interest in it, or who lost his or her job and can no longer afford to care for it. There are many reasons why a horse falls into the catagory of being unwanted, but for whatever the reason, this horse needs help. If it is not sold to a new home, it may end up at a sale barn, going to slaughter, or simply neglected, abandoned and left to die.
      The unwanted horse problem is an issue of personal interest to me. I love all horses. I can't stand to see a horse abused or neglected. I've never been able to just look the other way when I see a problem. I've worked with horse rescues, adopted and rescued a few horses on my own, and have always dreamed of forming a horse rescue to try to save horses. That dream is becoming a reality, in the Equine Spirit Sanctuary.
      But it's not enough to just run a horse rescue. I've learned, over the years of often heartbreaking work with horse rescues, you can't save them all. I grieve for every horse that I couldn't save and, believe me, there's been plenty. I agonize over the ones that deserve a better life, the beautiful spirits that have no hope of a good life on this earth, and the unfairness of it all.
      When I was younger, I'd dream about what I would do with my life if I won the lottery and had all the money I needed to do whatever I wanted with. I've always known that I would start a horse rescue. I'd devote my life to saving and caring for horses. Now that I'm older and a bit wiser, I've learned that there's way more of a problem of unwanted horses than one person could ever hope to solve, regardless of how much money or resources they have available.
      So my goal and intention for the past 20some years has been to try to promote responsible horse ownership. I've worked with various youth groups and horse clubs and animal welfare associations, doing what I can to impress upon fellow horse owners and enthusiasts how important the horses are. Now, with the formation of the Equine Spirit Sanctuary, promoting responsible horse ownership is a primary purpose of our organization. It is gratifying to see persons from across the United States who are also concerned about the unwanted horse problem and to know that finally, after all these years, a concerted effort is being made to address this. Little by little, I have faith that we an make a difference and someday things will be better for horses everywhere.

Following are links to PDF files that relate to the unwanted horse problem:

The Unwanted Horse Summit
The Plight of the Unwanted Horse
The Current Status of Rescue
Perspective on Slaughter from the Field