Drought Burdens Texas Horse Rescues

Texas' worst drought in 50 years has burnt up pasture and raised the price of hay, leaving horse rescues to cope with an increase in abandonment and neglect cases as owners struggle to feed their horses.

"The cost of hay is going up, if you can even find it," said Jennifer Williams, PhD, president and executive director of Texas' Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society.

Williams said the cost of hay has risen dramatically in the past year, and with no pasture and a stalled economy, some owners are unable to feed their horses, or are abandoning them altogether.

There is also an increase in owners looking for someone to take in horses they are no longer able to feed, according to Jerry Finch of Habitat for Horses, one of the country's largest horse rescues.

While Finch has not seen a significant increase in the price of feed, he expects the fall will bring big price hikes. “Once this season’s crops come in, we’ll see an increase. The crops aren’t making it at all,” he said.

Finch said Habitat for Horses has taken in about 20-30% more horses this year. Bluebonnet’s foster homes have taken in about 75 horses already this year, which is as many as were cared for through all of 2008.

"We're at capacity in our foster homes. In 11 years of rescuing, I've never had to say no to a sheriff's department seizure, but just last week we had to say we couldn't take any more horses," said Williams.

While the drought is a factor in the increase of neglect and abandonment cases, Williams said the rescues are also struggling with adoption numbers that have dropped.

"People can't afford to take in another mouth to feed right now," she said.

Those interested in fostering or adopting any horses from Bluebonnet can contact Williams at info@bluebonnetequine.org.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.