There is a problem of unwanted horses in America. Though exact numbers are unknown, a 2007 US estimate by the American Horse Council’s Unwanted Horse Coalition found 170,000 horses classified as unwanted. Equine rescue facilities and sanctuaries are answering the crisis, but resources are continually strained.

Living with Consequence

Living horsepower was one the largest sacrifices humans gave for the cause of industrialism, and of course we don’t know the outcome. It was never clear what it would mean for our species to remove our foundational link to nature, tradition, history, and our deepest primordial passions. It still isn’t. The deepest waves rock slowly.

Now it seems some are forgetting. A crisis of caring has emerged. The dreams of our ancestors lie dormant in too many horses, abandoned together.

All horses are valuable

Rescue operations and sanctuaries are important and compassionate ways to cope with unfortunate circumstances. Even so, charitable care facilities are overwhelmed, and ongoing funding is stretched. Solving the unwanted horse problem requires a more sustainable solution: less unwanted horses to begin with.

A horse grazing in a field can seem ordinary, but that view comes from the days when horses were still common. Today the horse is a link to our vanishing history.

New Problems Require New Solutions

The stress on horse rescue resources can be eased by success on the other side of the equation: reducing the number of unwanted horses in the first place.

More could be done to engage horse-owners and the community to enjoy and find value in horsemanship. Grassroots activities are the natural place to begin.

Grassroots jumping can help address the problem of unwanted horses

Jumping and other humane horse sports provide a direct corridor into some of our best cultural traditions. Horsemanship has time-honored associations with education and excellence across almost all cultures.

Engaging riders in the rewarding experience of equestrian training and sport can help make ‘unwanted’ horses into useful and appreciated partners.