Horses are such graceful, majestic animals that it is difficult to imagine that they could ever be “unwanted.” The reality, however, is that hundreds of these beautiful animals fall into this category every year, for a variety of very real reasons. Although circumstances vary by case, there are many common causes of the unwanted horse population in Colorado.

Naïve owners. All too often, people love the thought of owning a horse, but they are not prepared for the expense of boarding and caring for the animal. After they experience the costs of stables, hay, gear, and health care, they find they simply can’t afford it.

Loss of income. Often people experience financial loss as a result of divorce or loss of employment. Suddenly they find themselves in a situation where they just can’t care for their beloved animal.

Illness or death of owners. Another common reason for unwanted horses is the illness or death of their owners. Many times, if owners become too sick or even die, there are no family members or friends who are able or willing to take on the care of the owner’s horse.

Moving. A lot of times people must move and they are unable to transport their horse and care for their horse in their new location.

Aging horses. Like everyone, horses age. Many times the horse’s increasing age makes them no longer useful for the purpose required by the owner. Also, many owners cannot take on the expense of caring for an aging horse or even a sick or injured horse.

Use of horses. Sometimes horses no longer meet the owner’s “expectations.” Broodmares stop being able to breed. There are many unwanted foals from premarin mares. Or racehorses do not have the ability to compete as expected.

Negligence or abuse. Unfortunately, many people knowingly or recklessly commit cruelty to their horse. Those animals are often seized by authorities and end up becoming “unwanted” until they can be adopted or rehomed.

Horses become unmanageable or dangerous. Finally, people often find themselves unable or unwilling to properly tame or train their horse. As a result, owners no longer want the horse, and neither do any potential adopters.

Since 2008, the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance has worked in collaboration with equine organizations, horse rescues, and state agencies to raise awareness about unwanted horses and the importance of responsible horse ownership. We promote research to better understand the scope of the unwanted horse problem, and we provide financial support to organizations to help them feed, shelter, care for, and train abandoned horses and improve their chances of being adopted.

Officer Christine Padilla is the Animal Control Supervisor for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and a board member of the Colorado Unwanted Horse Alliance, serving on the Research and Grants Committees.

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