Anyone foster horses for a rescue?

I’ve been debating fostering one or two horses (or donkeys) in the future. I do not have a particular rescue or agency in mind yet. But I have the space and don’t want to just collect a bunch more horses of my own.

So I’m curious to hear from those who have done it before. What were your experiences?

I haven’t, as I don’t own a barn.

But the barn where my horse lives did. They were very active at a horse rescue prior to purchasing the farm. One of their horses came from the rescue.

They fostered 2-3 horses. One of those fosters was originally pastured with my horse (horses are in 1-3 horse pastures 24/7 with great run-ins and dedicated stalls for inclement weather). I was fine with that until I realized that the BOs had no time to work with this fostered horse who needed tons of groundwork. One day I removed my horse from the pasture and the foster literally ran at me, bowled me over and jumped over me as he tried to leave the pasture with my horse. He was loose and the daughter caught him with “gentling” and I haltered and took the horse from her and schooled him as to NOT do that shit again (I was pissed but kind, this horse had no boundary space and I became boss mare). He got it in that moment but that horse could have stepped on me and hurt me. Horse was removed from my horse’s pasture and eventually found a home with someone who had the time to work with him. A success story and I later learned.

BOs fostered another pony for what was to be a couple of months but turned out to be almost a year. Again, pony was very cute and friendly, but a little terror (that’s why he became a rescue pony) and BOs had no time to work with him. They eventually contacted the foster group to say “Ummm, what is the progress on this pony? He can’t live here forever.” They took the pony back.

I’d say if you have time to actually work with a foster horse, that could be a tremendously fulfilling experience. However, it does no help to help adopt the horse if s/he is just living at your farm and the foster agencies might become good with the fact that the horse is living with you and focusing on the more immediate issues for other cases for them. Many agencies get overwhelmed. I don’t think you can be a successful foster home with the aim of moving the horse on to a permanent home if you can’t put the time in to help fix the issue that made that horse a foster horse in the first place. In my limited experience.

If you have time to help the horse, fantastic. If you don’t, you might find that horse living with you long term. Be very upfront with the fostering group, consider if you have time to help the horse, and stick to your boundaries. You can be creative and do 6 or X month fostering but be clear that the horse returns to them at the end of 6 or X months. This prevents them from considering you a “forever” home.

To be clear, rescues WANT to adopt out all of their horses, but so many are understaffed and underfunded that their attention goes to really finding a great home for some high-priority cases that horses in good foster situations become lower priority. I totally get that. I really do.

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Thanks for sharing @J-Lu. I’m sorry your experience was so negative.

You make a good point about the time you put into the horse being related to the length of your foster. Getting stuck with a horse is one of my concerns.

I’m really looking for information on logistics. I understand behavioral issues and the need to work with the horses- that’s a given.

But do you ever get a care stipend from the rescue, or do you fund 100% of the horses’ care? How much involvement does the rescue have with you on a regular basis? Do potential adopters come to your property to see/try the horse and what’s the liability with that?

I know you aren’t in Oregon, but here we have a really active rescue called SEO - Sound Equine Options. They are involved in Humane Society cases, Law Enforcement, etc. I think, if I were you, I would give them a call and ask your questions. They can tell you how they handle these things, and give you a jumping off point as you look for one in your area.

https://soundequineoptions.org/

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I looked into, briefly, fostering a horse when we were moving into our wee farm. I imagine things vary a lot between organizations and areas etc.

Some of the information I received: preference for fosters to foot 100% of bill, preference for foster to commit to fostering horse for eternity if needed, preference for foster to host potential adopter meet n greet / trial rides as needed, preference for foster to participate in organization’s fundraising efforts and/or independently fundraise (I got the impression this was mandatory if one wanted any sliver of financial support from organization), preference for foster with intention to adopt plus wildly restrictive guidelines for facilities for fosters that exceeded the current facilities at the actual organization’s “home barn”.

I made three inquiries and each organization put up red flags akin to blaring, flashing, giant neon signs.

My personal impression was that any decent animal was going to be adopted right quick (or hoarded by the organization / connections) and fosters were only needed for animals unlikely to be adopted at all, animals that needed starting under saddle to be adoptable or animals needing rehab to be adoptable.

YMMV. In fact I hope your mileage varies as my experience left a very bad impression of rescue.

ETA: Two of the orgs I inquired with were running full fledged lesson programs on “rescue horses” and strongly encouraged me to sponsor one of these horses “if I wanted to truly help”. SMH

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Great idea! Thank you!

I fostered two horses for CANTER when they had a NE operation. The organization picked up all the expenses for the horses. One I kept and the other was adopted. I enjoyed working with OTTBs so for me it was a win-win.

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If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of rescues did you place inquiries with?

Nothing on this list is surprising to me. But, there are a few things I don’t want to deal with:

I don’t want to deal with showing a horse or trials frequently: I used to sell horses, and I hated that. If the rescue sends serious approved adopters out to meet a horse, that’s fine and expected. But I don’t want to deal with fielding constant inquiries from tire kickers or people trying a horse under saddle every week. If I wanted to do that, I’d still be selling horses.

I don’t mind funding the basic care of a foster, but I don’t want to take on expensive situations unless there is going to be guaranteed financial help. For example, if a horse is coming back from founder and needs $600 shoes reset every 3 weeks, I’m not signing up for that. Or shockwave 3x a week on an old injury. Or be expected to pay for surgery out of pocket. Etc. It would be nice to get a pittance for feed/hay/farrier/vet, but I understand that is probably uncommon.

I don’t want to feel like I’m boarding a horse for a demanding owner. So if the rescue is going to micromanage daily care, I would not be interested. On the other hand, I don’t want them to totally ghost me by dumping a horse and disappearing.

I don’t want to BE the rescue. So I would like to keep my involvement to being responsible for a couple fosters and not being expected empty my pockets or open my doors for every horse under their care. I’ve donated and volunteered with rescues in the past and unfortunately sometimes the financial plan is to continually make demands of and place guilt on your supporters.

Given my experience and interests, I’d probably reach out to racing-related organizations first.

Are my expectations unrealistic?

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CANTER is at the top of my list of places I’d reach out to about fostering, so this is great to hear. Thank you!

The orgs that I reached out to are all smaller more local type places taking in owner surrenders, outbidding kill buyers and the occasional LE seizure.

The closest track is in NOLA so racing after care type places aren’t really a thing in my immediate area. I would hope that something like that would be more professionally run.

I speculate it comes down to funding. It was obvious to me that the orgs I contacted had minimal funding and were heavily invested in finding fosters and/or sponsors to foot the bill for high maintenance horses. I caught a whiff of eau de hoarding everywhere.

I had hoped to find similar to what you’re looking for; I provide “stall space”, reasonable hay/feed, care/handling and maybe basic farrier work and an org that would foot bill for vet and specialty shoeing and pitch in if a high $$$ diet was needed. That set up wasn’t on offer in my area. I was honestly surprised as the monthly cost of what I was willing to provide commands a fairly high price even at cost in my area. It’s possible that the current hot market for horses played into what kind of fostering was needed. My inquiries were late 2020 early 2021.

The places I contacted would have all pre screened any potential adopters and then various levels of expected involvement from foster.

I think you’ll have to contact orgs that operate in your area to get a reasonable idea of what is on offer in your area. In my head, it seems like fostering OTTBs should be an easier gig to get into as there is higher demand for young, pedigreed horses that have been sat on than senior, feral mutts so logically less need for indefinite fostering.

It was easier for me to take on a horse that needed a soft landing privately. This may sound horrid, but I pre cleared with my vet at “PPE” of said horse that I wouldn’t be doing any “heroic - $$$” vet care for said horse and in such an event would elect for euthanasia to make sure vet was on board with that. The end result is that my out of pocket costs are basically the same and I have another rideable horse in my paddock. In fact he’s a family favorite as he’s perfectly happy to give “pony rides” to any warm body that can sit up. His holiday pony party schedule is already quite full. I’m beating back the inquiries to teach on him though. I am not doing lessons. No way no how never again lol

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Unfortunately that’s the truth with so many rescues. Those would not be the type I would ever contact.

I give a very small amount of financial support to a few rescues, a half dozen or so. Most of them are racing-related, but not all. The only reason I give them support is because they are mostly sane and don’t try to exploit me or make me feel like garbage. I’d probably start with those organizations.

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OP - I was on the board of a Humane Society back in Ohio. In addition to the usual dog and cat suspects, they also had a small barn and two small pastures. They would sometimes get humane cases that included horses, donkeys and other farm animals. They were occasionally in need of foster care due to space constraints, but I honestly dont remember how it worked from a $ perspective or length of time commitment. I suspect some of the fosters took on the full cost because they could afford it. I’m going to guess that every organization is a bit different on what they expect/need/will do. Your best bet would be to set up a list of questions and “interview” some rescues in your area. That way you will end up with a good base of knowledge on the details in your part of the world.

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@2tempe that’s a great idea to conduct some interviews.

I wouldn’t mind fostering for something like the humane society for the occasional seizures and surrenders that they can’t house.

Really, I would like to help horses in a reasonable manner within my means. I have space. I have experience. I have the ability to fund another animal or two.

I am not interested in being a bleeding heart and cash cow for some PETA whack jobs not grounded in reality. Also not interested in supporting someone’s hoarding tendencies. I don’t want to go destitute rescuing horses that should be euthanized. I also don’t want to feel like I’m conducting a sales or boarding business, since if I wanted to do that, I would be doing it.

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I had a terrific experience working with them. The first foster I kept and he became my first flight hunt horse.

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The fosters I’m referring to - the fosteree did not get a stipend because the fosterers were local organizations. The fosteree just had space. They funded 100% of the horse’s care and chose to take that on to help the fosterers. In fact, they volunteered with one of the fosterers previously. However, the horses were out on pasture all the time and had minimal costs other than relatively cheap trimming every 6 weeks (fosteree paid to help the fosterer). The rescues had very little contact with the fosteree. Fosteree wasn’t thrilled but knew that the fosterer was very busy with more immediate cases.

The fosteree was fine with people coming to the barn to check out the horses. But there was no activity.

If you want, PM me. I can put you in touch with the fosteree, who fostered some horses, volunteered at a rescue, and can offer you her insights.

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this is a Gift in Kind donation

I’m currently fostering an older gelding for Bluebonnet here in Texas, and he’s the second foster I’ve had for them. Bluebonnet is run very well, and is definitely NOT the hoarder-type that seems to be so common. It has an excellent reputation and works really hard to get horses into good homes. They have all kinds of fundraising events, the biggest being the Expo in the fall, where adoptable horses are placed with trainers (professionals and non-pro) for 90 days and then brought to the Expo to compete for prizes, etc. It’s a great opportunity to get the horses worked, seen, and into the hands of forever homes.

The rescue does offer a quarterly stipend that covers feed, routine care and some other expenses. They are not intrusive, but stay up to date on placed horses’ welfare, by having volunteers perform inspections (just a few pics and a general statement about their overall well-being) at various times. The inspections are communicated clearly, “Hey, it’s time for Dobbin’s annual inspection, is there a date and time that works best for you so I can come take a few pictures?” sort of thing, nothing nefarious, just basically making sure the horse is okay and verifying it’s location. I’ve done several of those and the adopters are always very welcoming and willing to let me meet their horses.

The first mare I fostered only had one person contact me about meeting her - she came out, fell in love, and the rest, as they say, is history. She was offered as companion only, and the wonderful woman that adopted her as a pasture ornament has become a good friend and just adores that mare no end. The gelding I have now has had two people express interest to the rescue, who in turn contacted me, but then both backed out for whatever reason. This gelding can be ridden, so I’m interested to see how an actual visit will go.

That’s my (very) limited experience with fostering, but I know I’m with a really good group and if at any time this gelding needs to go somewhere else, they will make that happen. He’s definitely not here for life and if not adopted by next spring will probably go back with a trainer for the Expo again. They truly do want what’s best for the horses AND their volunteers, and work hard to make good fits.

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