Sadly there are a large number of horses that are abused, neglected, and abandoned. Thankfully some of these horses are taken out of these bad situations and are known as rescue horses.

Adopting or buying a rescue horse is a noble thing to do. But many rescue horses carry their past trauma and can be challenging to train. Therefore, it is vital to take these special considerations seriously and know what you’re getting into.

We will cover everything you need to know to adopt or buy a rescue horse and help you achieve a fantastic future for yourself and your new horse.

What is a Rescue Horse?

Sometimes a horse owner can no longer care for their animal financially, or in other cases, an owner purposefully neglects or abuses their horse.

In either case, a rescue which is usually a non-profit organization, will step in and take the horse off their hands.

horse adoption

The horses taken in by these rescue organizations are known as rescue horses. A rescue horse will remain with that organization until it can be adopted or sold.

Is Adopting a Horse a Good Idea?

Quality Horses

By the time you are able to adopt a horse from a rescue, the horse will have benefited from being at the rescue.

Though you cannot determine the horse’s mental state with certainty, spending time at a rescue is excellent for a horse’s physical health.

At the rescue, the horse will be eating well, will have all vaccinations and any veterinary care to help alleviate physical issues.

Rescue horses come from diverse backgrounds and can be just as versatile as any horse.

You Are Helping Horses and Rescues

By adopting a rescue horse, you are helping that horse and other horses along with the rescue organization itself.

By taking a horse from the rescue, you free up resources and allow the rescue to help more horses.

If a rescue gets filled to capacity, they would have to turn away other horses that are in dire need of help. So by adopting one horse, you can affect many lives.

Community & Support

Those who adopt rescue horses are among the most passionate equestrian lovers you can find.

After adopting a rescue horse, you become a part of this community. And quite often, the rescue organization itself will continue to help and support you in the future in any way they can. No one wants to see a rescue horse end up having to go back to the rescue.

Things to Consider Before Adopting a Horse

Understand Your Needs

Before you decide to adopt or buy a rescue horse, you first need to evaluate your needs.

Do you want this animal as a companion for another horse? As a pet? Or do you want a horse you can ride recreationally or compete with?

By being honest with yourself and answering these questions, you will know precisely what kind of horse will be right for you.

Your Skill Level with Horses

Your skill level with horses is important to consider before adopting or buying one.

If you have never ridden a horse or groomed or cared for one adopting a rescue horse is likely not going to turn out well.

If you have experience or someone to teach you these skills then taking in a rescue horse is a viable option.

Where to Look for a Horse

Begin by researching horse rescues and horse sanctuaries near your home. Many horse rescues have websites in which you can view some of the horses they have up for adoption.

Rescues will require you to visit them as part of the adoption process. Before moving ahead with any organization, make sure it is reputable.

Adoption Fees

Be aware that adoption is not free. Every rescue organization has adoption fees ranging from $200 to $600 or more based on the breed of horse.

These fees go to help the organization allowing them to help more horses. 

Know the Basic Care Costs

Being aware of the basic care costs of owning a horse is vital for your horse’s stability and future. Caring for a horse can cost between $300 to $600 a month or more.

If you are not financially prepared to take care of a horse for its entire life, it will end up back at a rescue.

Be Ready for a Lifelong Commitment

Owning a horse is a lifelong commitment. Do not adopt a horse if you are unable to make this commitment.

You should not take horse ownership lightly. You must be sure that you are prepared physically, mentally, and financially to care for this horse for the rest of its life.

How to Adopt a Horse for Free

There are ways to adopt a horse for free, but it is generally not a good idea.

Horses you get for free will not be from a rescue, so there will be no concrete documentation. There will be no certainty of the horse’s issues or if it was treated well.

In general, you will lose all the benefits of adopting a horse that we outlined earlier in this article.

Adoption and Approval Process

  • Different organizations have different adoption and approval processes, but in general, it will begin with paperwork. This paperwork will contain some of your basic information and displays your intention to adopt a horse.
  • After the paperwork is completed you will make an appointment to visit the rescue and find the horse that is best for you.
  • If both the rescue organization and yourself approve of a potential match, you will move onto the approval process.
  • During the approval process, more paperwork, including references along with a background check, is a standard part of the process.
  • Many rescue organizations will require a home visit to ensure your environment works for a horse.
  • If you have been approved, the adoption will be finalized, fees will be paid, you will sign an adoption contract, and the rescue will deliver your new horse to your home.


Can I try the horse out?

Possibly, but riding a horse that’s still in the care of a rescue will depend on the rescue organization’s insurance. If you are unable to ride the horse yourself, you can watch an authorized representative of the rescue ride the horse.

How much does it cost to transport the horse?

The cost for transporting a horse will vary but can cost you between $1 to $3 per mile one-way in most cases.

Can I relocate the horse?

In most cases, you cannot relocate the horse without first notifying the rescue organization and receiving their approval.

Who maintains the title of the horse?

Generally, the rescue organization will retain the title to the horse but will provide you with any documentation required for boarding or showing.

What if I can’t afford to adopt a horse right now?

If you cannot afford a horse at this time, there are other alternatives available. You can lease a horse or attend a riding camp. Both of these alternatives are less expensive options that still allow you to enjoy a horse.

What if I can’t keep the horse anymore?

If unexpected drastic changes happen and you can no longer keep your horse, contact the rescue organization from which you got the horse. In the adoption contract of most rescue organizations, there is a clause stating the horse cannot be sold or given away, and if something were to happen, you would return the horse to the rescue.