You have shopped until you have dropped (or your fingers fell off or your phone battery died). Black Friday. Cyber Monday.

Or you haven’t.

Many horse people are allergic to mass media feeding frenzies, happily burying themselves in their barns, blocking out the blare of the consumer culture.

Whether you participate or avoid the consumer culture, because we love our horses, we all tend to want to support worthy equine related causes – and today is national #GivingTuesday,” a way to kick off the holiday giving (instead of “getting”) season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

And the equestrian community has climbed on board this popular theme. And of course, since we love our animals, we love to support our equine-related charitable causes.

Here at The Equiery, our mission is to promote our Maryland-based businesses and organizations. Just like we urge our readers to “shop local,” we also you urge to “give local.”

Maryland has a plethora of charity-related equine organizations, from therapeutic programs and college research programs to rescues and shelters.

But how do we know who is legit? How much of your donation actually goes to help horses, or just to line pockets? Where is the accountability? Who regulates these organizations? And how do we know when a contribution will be considered a tax-deductible donation for IRS purposes?

The Equiery routinely hears from readers who feel they have been rooked. The legitimacy of self-claimed charities has become a serious issue.

Charitable Questions

If you wish to determine whether a charitable organizations is truly a federally recognized tax-exempt 501(c)(3), don’t be shy about asking for information. Most legitimate charities will make the information easily accessible to potential donor. If the group does not make the information accessible, or are less than transparent, we recommend reconsidering your donation. Even when folks have good intentions, if the organization is careless with their money, then you have to question if your contribution is really going to be helpful for the animals or the intended beneficiaries.

Here are some key attributes that every ligitimate rescue organization or facility should have:

• Corporate structure as a 501(c)(3), which allows the organization to accept tax-deductible donations, and a federal tax-exempt I.D. number

• Registration with the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State’s Charitable Organizations Division. All Maryland charitable registrations MUST be in full compliance and receive a registration letter from the Secretary of State’s office before soliciting.

• Financial records, auditor’s report, and/or tax returns provided upon request.

Alignment with Your Beliefs

Research any organization that you want to support with a financial contribution. Make sure that the organization’s overall philosophy is in keeping with yours. Don’t just donate to a specific issue if the organization deals with more that one “issue.” Just because you agree with an organization on one topic, doesn’t mean that you will agree with everything that the charity supports or espouses. Do you really want to donate to an organization that has as its ultimate goal the “liberation” of all animals from their enslavement, just because you agree with their position on the transportation of horses to slaughter?

Rescues and Shelters

Facilities which actually care for horses perhaps raise the most concern from readers. No doubt most people only have the best of intentions when starting a rescue facility, but the unfortunate reality is that some so-called rescues are merely facades for another type of hoarder.

Once upon a time, rescues and facilities were not required to have stable licenses – but now they are, and Maryland’s Stable Inspectors will make routine inspections to be sure that the horses are receiving adequate care. For all licensed Maryland stables (include rescues, sanctuaries, shelters and regular lesson, boarding and training facilities), click here. If you do not see your designated rescue on this list, then they are not licensed.

In trying to determine if an organization is well-organized or kind of slipshod, here are some other things to consider:

Does the organization have

  • Membership in regional and national rescue organizations
  • A board of directors featuring respected members of the community
  • Open access to visitors and supporters who want to monitor animal care
  • Nationally certified principals and/or primary caregivers
  • Training program for volunteers
  • A good relationship with the local animal control office
  • A willingness to participate in the Maryland Stable Licensing Program

In addition, legitimate rescues, shelters and sanctuaries should be able to answer the following questions:

The time and expense to operate an equine shelter are prohibitive. Many start up with heartfelt intentions; few have the savvy to survive. Nonetheless, some do. These legitimate organizations not only provide shelter and care for neglected, abandoned and even the occasionally abused horse, they rehabilitate them and find them good adoptive homes. Often, they also provide instruction or clinics on basic horse care, which helps to break the cycle of neglect due to ignorance. 

Useful Links


IRS Charity Guidelines

Maryland Equine Rescues, Shelters & Sanctuaries

Therapeutic Riding