Got Horses?

Give them a ride home on the ASPCA’s Horse Adoption Express

Does your organization take in horses? Dr. Emily Weiss shares the law of equine supply and demand that’s resulting in a more than 20% increase in adoptions. “Chances are,” she says, “a horse who is languishing at one facility with little adopter interest has adopters waiting just a few states away.” 

Nova had been housed at a Florida equine shelter for well over a year, waiting for her right person. With limited capacity at the shelter, each day where Nova waited for an adopter was a day that the facility was unable to help another horse.  A beautiful buckskin Paso Fino, Nova was sound and kind, and while she had a few quirks (don’t we all), she was a lovely mare who had found herself in a supply-and-demand challenge.  

A few years ago, the ASPCA conducted some research to better understand the potential adoption market for equines. That study concluded with an estimate of 2.3 million individuals with both a strong interest and the capacity to adopt a horse. Since then, we’ve been working to bridge the gap between those who want to adopt with those who have the horses who need to be adopted. Through The Right Horse Initiative, our varied industry and adoption partners have been gaining significant ground in normalizing and increasing adoption. Year after year we have seen adoption increases over 20%, and our industry partners are making large advances in growing adoption interest by weaving the topic into their messaging to the equine-interested public.  

Many of our partners would be able to adopt out many more horses if they had the #RightHorse for a particular adopter. Some adopters are looking for particular breeds, ages, and sizes, and many adopters are adopting a horse with a particular riding discipline in mind, such as a horse for trail riding, barrel racing, hunter/jumpers or a therapy horse, to name a few. We find there tend to be regional differences in the types of horse entering shelters—and where intake of a particular type is high might not necessarily be where the demand for that type exists. Building off the incredible work in the dog and cat sheltering world, we thought if we could simply remove distance as a barrier, we can better match demand with supply. 

As you all know very well, dogs and cats are often moved in large volumes from areas of high intake to areas of low intake. Horses, however, need to be moved based on individual qualities (breed, training, etc.), and therefore smaller targeted loads from various regions have proven to be impactful.  

The ASPCA’s Horse Adoption Express transport program aims to break down the barrier of distance and increase the number of horses saved. Chances are a horse who is languishing at one facility with little adopter interest has adopters waiting just a few states away. 

Take our girl Nova, for example. Paso Finos are over-represented in Florida, but are in high demand in Michigan.  So, Nova boarded the Horse Adoption Express, along with five thoroughbreds who were challenged by the Florida heat and needed a cooler climate to thrive. Three weeks later, Nova was home being loved by a young girl who had been dreaming of this day for as long as she could remember. 

Nova is not unique. Nova’s story is being repeated by the trailer load. 

Why am I telling you all this, you ask? Two reasons: first, our partners need more horses like Nova—horses who may not be in high demand at your shelter, but have a waiting list of adopters and skilled staff to support that horse at a Right Horse Partner facility. If your organization takes in horses but does not (yet) have a robust equine adoption program, we can facilitate the transport to an adoption partner, leaving your organization open to help even more equines. Reach out to us at to learn more about getting your horses on the Express.  

Secondly, several of your colleagues’ agencies are already a part of the ASPCA’s Right Horse Initiative, including Kentucky Humane Society, Dumb Friends League and Lollypop Farm, and we would love for you to join them.  Being a part of the initiative gives you access to training, resources and the support of industry partners to help elevate your work and achieve the shared goal of massively increasing equine adoptions.  Learn more about the ASPCA’s Right Horse Initiative and hop on board.

Learn More

The ASPCA’s Right Horse Initiative
The ASPCA’s Horse Adoption Platform: My Right Horse
The ASPCA’s Horse Adoption Resources Facebook Group
From Kentucky Humane Society: 4 Ways to Help Horses Without Breaking the Bank

Photo: Nova and her human, courtesy of the ASPCA

Emily Weiss, Ph.D., is ASPCA Vice President, Equine Welfare. Dr. Weiss leads the efforts at the ASPCA to increase the rehoming of horses, and to develop effective safety net programming and an effective law enforcement response to cruelty and neglect. She is a founding member of Equine Welfare Data Collective and serves on the Animal Welfare Advisory board of the American Horse Council. A nationally recognized speaker, Dr. Weiss has published extensively on topics related to applied animal behavior. She also served as the ASPCA’s VP of Research & Development, overseeing groundbreaking research related to the animal sheltering field and developing assessment tools for shelter animals. Before that she created training programs to improve husbandry and decrease stress for many zoo animals. In all her work, two central questions continue to drive her: "Why?" and "How do you know?" These questions guide Dr. Weiss’ consistent creative and scientific approach to the work of improving animal welfare.

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