Caring Horse Owners Can Provide Long-Term Care for Their Horses

Posted: July 6, 2013

There are not accurate figures documenting how many unwanted horses actually exist, their age and sex, the breeds represented, how many are purebred versus grade, their most recent use, their value or what happens to them in the long run.

By Dr. Ann Swinker Penn State University Extension Horse Specialist
and Gwen Wills, Pennsylvania Equine Council 

Unwanted Horses - "Full Circle"

Tens of thousands of horses that could be classified as unwanted are in numerous locations and often are located just standing looking out within their own pastures.

  • Unfortunately, the number of unwanted horses exceeds the resources currently available to accommodate them. The estimated cost of providing basic care for a horse ranges from $1,800-$2,400 annually. Currently, there are not enough volunteers, funding or placement opportunities for all of the unwanted horses that are in need of a future home.
  • The many reasons these horses become unwanted are on account of sickness, injured, old, outgrown (too small, not advanced enough), dangerous, too expensive to maintain, and burdensome (the need to own has dissipated). During the June 2013 American Horse Council meeting, the Unwanted Horse Coalition had conduced presentations by several of their Breed Association members.
  • Several breed associations are actively working on programs to help rescue and help place these unwanted horses. The “Full Circle” program being run by American Quarter Horse, AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association), American Morgan Horse Association, Standardbred, USTA (United States Trotting Association) and The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Connect Program are examples of the efforts being directed to assist in the numbers of unwanted horses. Through these programs, caring horse owners can choose to provide for the long-term care of horses they've bred or owned in the past.
  • Association members have the opportunity to enroll a horse in the Full Circle Program. With some breeds there is not a cost for this service, and it doesn’t imply a guarantee or financial commitment on the part of the person who wishes to enroll the horse into the program. 
  • If a horse is enrolled in the Full Circle Program ever becomes unwanted or ready for retirement, help could be available. The current owner of the horse will have the ability to view the contact information on record for the horse involved in the program that was documented when the horse was enrolled in the program. From there, the person who enrolled the horse in the Full Circle Program and the current owner can discuss ways that may assist in the future outcome of the unwanted horse – from taking the horse back to known recommended retirement homes or providing funds for the retirement of the horse.
  • The options are numerous and completely up to the person who enrolled the horse in the program and the current owner’s combined decision. If the situation of the person who initially enrolled the horse in the program has changed and they are not able or desire to assist in the decision of the unwanted horse they are not under any obligation to be involved. 

The theory behind Full Circle is to provide caring owners with the option to provide for the long-term care of horses they’ve bred or owned over the years. 

  • These breed “Full Circle Programs” are put in place to encourage individuals to provide a "safety net" for horses they bred, owned, trained, drove, cared for, or just admired. Those interested in the future of horses, who may become unwanted, can encourage associations to develop a similar program such as the Full Circle Program.

For more information about the Full Circle Program visit