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Unwanted Horse - Apr 2nd, 12

A guide to finding volunteer opportunities in your equine community by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

You don’t have to acquire a veterinary degree to make a powerful impact on equine welfare. Volunteers are the lifeline of non-profit organizations working to make better lives for horses across America. Your “good works” could mean spending an hour each week cleaning stalls at a local rescue or raising awareness of the unwanted horse issue in your community. If horses have a special place in your heart, there’s a place for you to volunteer.

Why Get Involved?

According to the Unwanted Horse Coalition, an estimated 100,000 or more horses in the United States are classified as “unwanted” every year. Horses may find themselves unwanted because they fail to meet an owner’s expectations, are diagnosed with a non-life threatening disease, have behavioral problems or are simply victims of a difficult economy.  Equine rescue and rehabilitation centers, therapeutic riding programs and equine welfare groups are combating this problem and providing care for as many horses as possible with the help of volunteers. 

Volunteers are also important advocates for the equine industry. If you choose to spend time mentoring young riders at your local 4-H or Pony Club, you are fostering the talents of future leaders in the equine industry. Volunteering also can improve your horsemanship skills and provide you with the opportunity to share the splendor of horses with others. 

Types of Service

Think about your talents – what special skills or experience can you bring to an equine organization? Would you be open to “dirty work,” such as sweeping barn aisles or mucking stalls? Do you have the extensive experience required to assist with training and rehabilitation of rescued horses? Do you own personal property where you can provide foster care to horses in need of a temporary home? 

Barn Duties and Maintenance

Duties include cleaning stables, gardening, mucking stalls, grooming horses, assisting with feeding and repairing equipment or fencing. 


You must be willing to board a horse in need on personal property and provide special care on a temporary basis. Training skills may be required. 

Special Events

Check with local rescue groups, therapeutic riding programs or your veterinarian’s office to find out how to get involved in special events. Events in need of volunteers may include silent auctions, charitable dinners, horse shows or community health care clinics. 

Side Walking/Leading

Specific to therapeutic riding programs, side walkers are often needed to lead horses during therapy sessions. 


Only experienced riders may be offered opportunities to help get horses ready for adoption through riding and training. Requirements will vary at each rescue facility. 

Offering Special Talents

Your special talents may include maintaining a website, writing for a newsletter, repairing tack, answering phones or organizing a mailing. 


Benevolent equine organizations are always in need of financial support. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on where to give. 


Many benevolent equine organizations look for members of the equine community to serve as board members or in advisory roles. 

Other Considerations

While not always glamorous or easy, working with horses can be a meaningful and rewarding experience. You may want to request a tour of the equine organization or shadow a fellow volunteer before determining whether you will be comfortable serving at that particular facility. Many equine organizations rely on volunteers for daily horse care and maintenance. If you are punctual, positive and reliable, you will be an invaluable asset to that organization.  

Good Works are acts of giving back to the horse, for the love of the horse and the people they serve. The American Association of Equine Practitioners commends members of the equine community who are donating time, expertise and resources to benefit horses. 

For more information about the AAEP’s Good Works campaign and resources to get started serving, visit