Calls to the ISPCA rescue hotline in relation to horses have outstripped all previous records this year. Horses accounted for 1,204 calls to the ISPCA up to the end of June this year, which is a dramatic increase on the 430 calls received in 2008, and this year's tally looks set to double last year's figure of 1,142.
The recession has changed the profile of horses being taken in by the ISPCA, with highly bred performance horses now accounting for a major portion of the rescue cases.
"We took in six registered Irish Draught horses last week, a mare and her progeny. That would never have happened a few years ago," Barbara said.
Microchipping has impacted positively on the rescue and re-homing cycle. Although the current owner of a horse cannot be traced from the microchip, the horse's breeding can be identified.
"The chip means we can identify the pedigree and, if the horse has good bloodlines, it has a greater chance of being re-homed.
"If someone is willing to take on a young horse, they are more likely to take on one that has the potential to achieve something in the competition arena."
So what does re-homing a rescue horse involve?
There are some basic rules that the ISPCA adheres to when re-homing rescue horses.
Firstly, because horses are herd animals, no equine will be re-homed to be kept on its own; it must have suitable company of at least one other horse.
The ISPCA retains ownership of the horse and has the right to repossess the horse, if the terms of the fostering agreement are not being adhered to or if they have any other concerns about the animal.
Re-homed horses can be used for all types of equestrian activities but cannot be used for hire, reward or breeding.
According to the organisation, "there are already too many unwanted equines; we are not going to add to their number by allowing our rescue mares to breed. If you would like another equine, please consider another rescue animal.
"We are happy for our equines to be ridden, driven and competed with, as long as their welfare comes first.
"Apart from the above stipulations, the equine is yours for its lifetime, as long as we are satisfied you are adhering to the fostering agreement," the ISPCA added.
Many of the horses have been rescued from cruel and neglectful situations, some are very nervous or have behavioural problems and some have chronic health issues, so the aim is to try to find homes which will meet their needs and provide a good experience for the equine and the foster person.
Applications for re-homing will involve talking with the potential fosterer about the individual horse and the fosterer's situation, a home visit, and, if approved, time spent handling the equine before it is taken to its foster home.
Although there are no fees for re-homed horses, the ISPCA does ask for a suitable donation to help with the costs incurred in bringing that animal back to health.
In terms of the expertise required for re-homing an animal, the ISPCA has issued the following guidelines:
- A sound understanding of stable management, equine health and veterinary care is desirable.
Experience in keeping, riding and training horses may be necessary for some of the more difficult equines.
- Willingness to learn and be guided by our staff would be acceptable with some animals -- if you don't have a lot of experience.
- A commitment to follow a regular routine of vaccination, worming, farrier and dental care, together with any specific routine for an individual equine (for example: ability to manage laminitic ponies, sweet itch, arthritis, etc).
- A commitment to provide necessary veterinary and nursing care should the equine become injured or sick.
- If fostering an untrained animal or a riding animal, you will need to demonstrate your ability to handle it.
- You will need a commitment to give the equine a dignified ending when its quality of life has deteriorated, where a veterinary surgeon recommends euthanasia, in consultation with the ISPCA, except in emergency situations.
Who to contact for re-homing rescue horses...
ISPCA: www.ispca.ie or call 043 332 5035
Dublin SPCA: www.dspca.ie or call 01 493 5502
Irish Horse Welfare Trust: www.ihwt.ie or call 0404 45720.