by Angela Klinger: Former Maryland farm owner, Frederick

Times are tough, and for one reason or another some of you may find it necessary to relocate your horse to a new home. This will be a very difficult decision to make and you will want to pick the best facility available.

Whether you decide to sell, lease or “donate” your horse, be prepared to do the research necessary to ensure that your horse finds a good new home. Find out how the proposed new facility plans to use your horse. Ask for several references and check them out. Call the local animal control department, humane society, Better Business Bureau, and in Maryland, the Maryland Horse Industry Board (MHIB) offices, and inquire about any previous complaints.

You could also talk to their boarders, the local riding clubs, tack shops, feed stores and even their neighbors. Ask for the names of the veterinarian and farrier that they use and call them, too. Any bad reputations will soon be revealed.

When inspecting the new facility, give special attention to the conditions of their other horses. Do they all seem healthy and well cared for? Check out the conditions of their barns, run-in sheds, fencing and fields. Is there enough good pastureland to support the number of horses that they have? Is there an adequate amount of hay and feed in storage?

Are the water troughs full, clean and heated in the winter?

All of the paddock areas should provide good food and water. Are the stalls, run-in shed and corrals clean and free of excess manure? Is there enough shelter for the amount of horses? Ask to see written proof of the worming, farrier, dental and vaccination schedules. In Maryland, most stables will post the license issued from the MHIB in plain view.

To be certain that your horse is never given away or sold without your knowledge, neglected, abused or even slaughtered, you need to have a good written contract signed by all parties.

“Rescue” is Not a Guarantee
Remember that even if a facility advertises itself as a “horse rescue,” “therapeutic riding school” or any other similar non-profit/501(c)(3) organization, there is no guarantee that your horse would receive any better treatment because of this. While most of these organizations do “good” work, unfortunately there are a few scams in operation.

Before you donate your horse to such an organization, do the same research and require the same contract as with any other proposed new facility. Your horse will thank you and you may save yourself a lot of grief. A legitimate non-profit/501 (c)(3) will have no problem showing you a copy of the “Letter of Determination” and the associated tax ID# given to them by the IRS. A legitimate non-profit/501(c)(3) should also give you a “tax deductible” receipt for any amount of money or goods that you donate to them.

To verify a non-profit/501(c)(3) legal status you can use the following web sites, where you can enter your inquiries in several ways. If your “non-profit” is not listed on any site avoid them entirely. You can also use the government sites to start an investigation via a simple phone call or email. Let the government “sort it out!”