Recent economic worries, coupled with an unseasonably dry summer, have put a heavy burden on horse owners.
"The economic system has been failing and people have not been adopting," said Victoria Goss, founder and president of the nonprofit Last Chance Corral in Athens, which takes in neglected or unwanted horses. However, the ultimate goal there is to do more than just a provide temporary shelter for abandoned horses.
"Coming in, these horses are not always ideal candidates for adoption," said Goss.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Frank Travis, of Marietta, leads his horse Joe into a pasture recently. On occasion, Travis has helped house refugee horses for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley.
But through rehabilitation and training, she hopes to improve their chances at adoption, said Goss.
The corral only takes on 10 horses at a time so that they can be given as much attention as possible, said Goss.
However, lately the corral has seen an uptick in the number of people trying to find a new home for their horses. They have been forced to turn away several horses.
Costs to consider with a horse
Hay, which has risen from around $2 to $5 a bale because of this summer's drought.
Regular veterinarian bills in addition to emergency veterinarian bills for unforeseen illnesses and travel fees if unable to transport the horse to the vet.
Regular vaccinations and additional vaccinations for those who plan on boarding a horse.
Boarding costs which can range from $20 a month to upwards of $100 a month.
Farrier fees, which cost up to $75 per session and are done between two to six times a year.
Feed, grain, and additional vitamin supplements which can cost more than $100 a month.
Riding supplies including saddles, reigns, blankets, brushes and various other equipment
On top of this, they are finding it harder and harder to find good adoptive homes, said Goss.
"I can't take in as many as I like when I do not have the turnover that I used to have," she said.
Though the economic downturn has played a role in people no longer being able to care for their horses, this summer's drought has exacerbated these problems by causing the price of hay to jump.
Goss said she has seen the price of hay go from $2 to $5 lately, more than doubling.
"I'm already seeing starving animals and usually you don't see that until January or February, but people's fields are drying up," said Goss.
Though recent rainfalls have somewhat helped to ease dry conditions, it is too late to help the pastures and hay fields that local horse owners rely on to nourish their horses.
"The pastures have dried up. I'm feeding hay already," said Frank Travis, who owns five horses on his farm in Marietta.
Normally, his horses could feed in the pastures until October. This year, Travis has had to start feeding them hay more than a month early.
Though he is able to bail his own hay, Travis has not been able to harvest as much as in past years.
In addition to his own horses, Travis also helps the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley in occasional instances when they find or rescue a horse that needs shelter.
This summer, he housed a pair of horses that had gotten free and were running along County Road 26.
Dave Tornes, president of the Pioneer City Riding Club which operates from the Washington County Fairgrounds, said it is not uncommon for local horse owners to provide foster homes for horses in need.
"Almost any horse person that has the space will take it in before letting it go to sale," Tornes said of unwanted or neglected horses.
One reason so many owners are unable to care for their horses is that buyers do not always plan for the costs associated with owning a horse, said Tornes.
"There are people that do not know what they are getting into when they are buying a horse. It is not like a dog or a cat. The vet bills are bigger. Everything is very expensive when you are a horse owner," said Tornes.
On top of hay and grain which Tornes estimates at $100 a month, there is a long list of additional costs horse owners need to keep in mind, including ferrier costs, veterinarian and vaccination bills, and boarding fees when owners do not have adequate space of their own.
Tornes recommends that horse owners have a small savings account set aside to account for unforeseen expenses, such as increased feedings costs or emergency vet bills.
Travis, who helps his brother operate Ponies and Ice Cream at the Washington County Fair, often sees people who are eager to own a pony but have not necessarily considered the responsibilities.
"People are always asking me how they can get a pony for their child. A pony is not as bad as a horse, but it is still expensive," said Travis.
At the Last Chance Corral, they put through adoptions to families that have already owned a horse and understand the costs and responsibilities associated with it.
"We get a lot of our horses from first-timers that did not know the reality of what they were getting into," said Goss.
People interested in helping the corral are encouraged to donate cash rather than supplies because they are able to buy supplies in bulk at a much cheaper rate, said Goss.
Interested potential adopters can visit the Last Chance Corral online at www.lastchancecorral.org or contact them at (740) 594-4336.