Most of you aren't just horse doctors— you're horse people. Whether your passion for these magnificent animals stems from
a childhood fascination or a lifetime of respect for the creature's rugged and free-spirited nature, you're for the horse.
That's why it's been difficult to hear persistent reports about unwanted or abandoned horses in recent months.
(PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)
Here's the good news: You can help save unwanted horses. And in some cases, finding ways to help the animals you love can
even lead to increased client confidence and trust.
A less-than-ideal economy was only one issue that caused a spike in the number of unwanted horses from 2007 to 2009, says
Ron McDaniel, National Sales Manager for Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health's (ISPAH) equine division Another contributing
factor, McDaniel says, was the closing of slaughter facilities in the United States. "The loss of the slaughter market, combined
with the cost of proper care or euthanasia and carcass disposal, led to some horse owners simply turning their horses loose
or take them to a rescue facility," he says.
It's not hard to see how the costs could take an inexperienced horse owner by surprise. According to a February 2009 survey
conducted by the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC), the average horse costs about $3,000. However, you can buy a horse for as
little as $50. The scales become unbalanced when feed costs of $2,300 to $2,500 per year and medical costs of $500 to $1,000
per year become more than owners bargain for.
If someone winds up in dire financial straits and can't afford to keep an old or lame horse, they might consider abandoning
it. In this case, you can offer to vaccinate or euthanize at a reduced cost. "The equine practitioner becomes the voice of
reason when dealing with someone who just can't afford a horse anymore," says Dr. Tom Lenz, UHC chairman and past president
of the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
By early 2008, McDaniel says, more horse owners were feeling financially pressed and the situation was desperate "Every time
you opened a magazine or newspaper you saw more articles about unwanted horses being neglected or turned loose," he says.
"Rescue facilities overwhelmed with the increased costs of caring for more horses reached out and asked us for anything we
could spare in the way of free products. We wanted to respond to that."
A helping hand
McDaniel, along with Cynthia Gutierrez, DVM, equine technical services veterinarian for ISP AH, approached ISPAH executives
and won approval to initiate a program to help overburdened retirement and rescue facilities. On January 1,2009, the AAEP
partnered with ISPAH in "The Unwanted Horse Veterinary Relief Campaign (UHVRC)." Through this program, AAEP member veterinarians
work with rescue facilities to provide care for unwanted or abandoned horses. "We made a commitment to help unwanted horses
across America by providing struggling equine rescue and retirement facilities with the vaccines they need to improve the
health and welfare of the horse," Dr. Gutierrez says. "Though this partnership with the AAEP, we help unwanted horses become
more adoptable and ease the burden on rescuers."
Head off the problem and give clients options
ISPAH set up a special website,
http://www.uhvrc.org/, where rescue facility operators can download a program application. Approved applicants receive free vaccines to use when
providing care for rescued horses.