As some recession-weary horse owners struggle to feed their animals, hay banks in some states are helping those most in need.
Hay banks provide owners with enough hay to keep their horses healthy during times of crisis, often up to one month. Operators distribute supplies purchased through cash contributions or donated by participating growers and distributors. In order to qualify for assistance, owners must provide prior care references from veterinarians and farriers.
"We are not here to enable people who are not caring for their horses in the first place. We're providing preventative measures," said Amy Ryals, founder of The Hay Bank of Colorado, which has distributed 380 bales of hay since it was established in January.
The programs also allow rescue operators to identify horses at risk and either support owners until their circumstances improve, or offer placement options before their horses become statistics.
"Through this program, we just took in two horses that would not have lasted another day," said Raquel Ferotti, president and founder of the Mountain View Rescue Inc. Hay Bank program in Kentucky.
As the recession grinds on, Oregon Hay Bank founding board member Julie Fritz expects hay banks to play an even larger role in protecting at-risk horses.
Since 2008, the Oregon Horse Welfare Council's program has distributed 134 tons of hay and received countless inquires from individuals and equine welfare agencies eager to establish their own hay bank programs. In response, the council developed a start-up package containing pertinent policies, procedures, and forms available upon request.
"Our goal is to help keep as many horses out of rescues as we can," Fritz said. "We'd like to see hay banks in all 50 states."
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.