With the poor economy, many people are no longer able to pay the fees associated with care for their equines. Hard times for people, means hard times for horses. In our area, boarding for one horse is generally 200$-500$ per month depending upon the level of care. In the Bay area, it can be double this. These fees do not include shoeing and/or hoof trimming, vaccination, deworming, or other routine health care needs.
People who care for their horses at home may still not be able to afford the costs of food, etc. Horses need 2 to 2.5 pounds of feed for every 100 lbs. Most horses are 900-1200 lbs. The average horse will consume 3-5 flakes of hay per day. This can be supplemented with grain depending on the activity level of the horse, and the quality of the hay. A bale of hay usually sells for $18-23 per bale depending on the type of hay and the amount purchased. You do save purchasing in bulk, but that means you need the land and a barn to store the hay in. Having your horses in pasture can also decrease hay requirements; but this means you need to have a lot of land; and that you are able to rotate, irrigate, and fertilize the pastures so that feed is produced.
Horses need shelter from the wind, rain, and hot sun. Without shelter, they have higher food requirements, will have difficulty maintaining weight, and can be prone to getting sick. They also need a dry area. Mud and standing water can contribute to foot rot and other medical problems.
Because of the shift in the economy, many horse owners are having to sell there horses. The market is flooded with horses for sale, and the values have dropped drastically. It can take several months to years to find a buyer. Someone that is having financial difficulties, cannot wait this long. There are also many owners who are offering their horses for free to good homes. Auction houses are selling horses for much less they they are worth. Some owners are just abandoning these beautiful creatures.
Sadly, because the market is so saturated, it has become much easier for people who want horses for non-recreational uses to get them. You cannot tell who is purchasing your horse when you go to an auction. People are answering adds, and posing as a family who will care for a horse long term. Many horses are being purchased at auction or private homes, and shipped to Mexico and Canada for meat. The food is being sold in high end restaurants in France, Belgium, and Japan. The horses are often abused at holding facilities, slaughter houses, and in transport. The horses are moved in double-decker vehicles and are unable to fully stand up in overcrowded conditions and are not fed, watered, or rested for over 24 hours. They arrive at the slaughter facility, stressed and weakened, often to find unsanitary and crowded conditions.
What can you do to prevent this? If you are a struggling horse owner, and cannot keep your horse much longer, contact a reputable rescue organization. NorCal Equine Rescue, The Bay Area Equestrian Network, and The Last Furlong can be very helpful. If you give or sell your horse to a private party, ask to be able help the horse settle in and to visit the horse. These requests will turn unscrupulous buyers away. Please consider making a donation to one of the above horse rescue organizations, to help give horses a second chance. These beautiful creatures deserve better than this.