In order to massively increase horse adoption in the United States, we first need to reframe the way people think and talk about it. This glossary provides definitions and explanations for common words and phrases you’ll find utilized in the ASPCA Right Horse vernacular. Feel free to incorporate these terms into your own language and join our movement to positively reframe the conversation around equine welfare.


A horse in transition is any horse that is currently in transition from one home, vocation, opportunity or owner to the next. Throughout its lifetime, most horses will have multiple homes and owners. Often, these horses find themselves in transition due to no fault of their own, rather as the result of a change in the owner’s circumstances (time, location, finances, need, etc.). The term “at-risk horse” is often used to describe a more vulnerable horse whose situation requires more urgency or intervention to prevent neglect or potential harm.


Rescue horse is a term used to describe a horse that has experienced and/or been removed from a situation of abuse or neglect. Typically, these horses will require extensive rehabilitation in order to become ready candidates for adoption.


Adoption is the process of transferring a horse into a new home or vocation from a 501c3 organization. Adoption organizations and transition centers work to facilitate adoptions in a variety of ways, ranging from supporting individuals who need to rehome a horse to seeking and securing appropriate placements for the horses in their care. Many transition centers utilize training and robust care plans for horses in transition in order to make them more attractive candidates to prospective adopters.


While many prospective horse owners are interested in adoption, overly restrictive and/or lengthy adoption policies and procedures can become barriers to adoption. Adoption organizations should implement a process to screen potential owners to seek a strong match between horse and human, while also being mindful that the pre- and post-adoption policies do not become so complicated that they discourage potential owners from choosing adoption when acquiring a new horse.


Adoption or Transition Centers are organizations and facilities that provide a range of services including intake, boarding, medical care and training for horses in transition. These centers are typically a coordinated effort between adoption organizations, trainers, veterinarians and other industry professionals working together to prepare and match horses in transition with their next owners and opportunities. These centers facilitate placements in adoptive homes and new vocations through traditional and non-traditional approaches to finding the right matches and opportunities for the horses in their care.


Sanctuaries are equine facilities that provide lifetime care for horses. Unlike adoption organizations, sanctuaries typically do not focus on rehoming the horses in their care. Due to the cost of feed and care, as well as horses’ long lifespans, sanctuary care tends to be expensive and many facilities quickly fill their capacity.


Safety net resources, sometimes called community resources, support horse owners and adopters in a variety of ways such as open admission shelters, fully- or partially-subsidized veterinary or feed support and humane end-of-life options.  Safety net programs aim to prevent neglect or other at-risk situations, which are often due to good families simply falling on hard times, or a lack of information or education. Making safety net resources more available can prevent horses from becoming at-risk or neglected.


Humane transition is used to describe a safe change in career or ownership situation, retirement, move to a companion-only role, or even a compassionate end of life.
Most horses experience multiple transitions throughout their lifetimes, therefore, it is imperative to build proactive systems that provide all horses and owners with humane transition options.


A foster can refer to an individual or a home where a horse resides impermanently to receive veterinary care, training, other care, or simply have time to find their right home. Adoption and transition organizations often utilize foster networks to expand their capacity and engage their community in supporting horses. 

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