Horse owners are no different in the repercussions experienced due to the pandemic, and unfortunately, the struggle has not lessened for many. Horses are a huge financial responsibility, and an interruption in income can be devastating for both horse and owner.
The year of 2020 started with resolutions, plans, and hope for the future…and then COVID-19 arrived shortly after, with an agenda that dashed those celebrations and changed us – as a nation, a community, and individuals.
Within a short time of the lockdowns – and in many unfortunate cases, furloughs and layoffs – came the realization that unpreparedness, whether as a nation or an individual, profoundly affects our lives, consuming our health, wealth, and futures.
Horse owners are no different in the repercussions experienced due to the pandemic, and unfortunately, the struggle has not lessened for many.
2021 arrived in the midst of yet another increasing worldwide crisis, with deaths and positivity rates steadily rising due to gatherings over the holidays. While we have progressed with the development and increasing availability of COVID vaccines, the domino effect in loss of income, health, and even death remains a major obstacle for many.
Horses are a huge financial responsibility, whether they’re kept on the owner’s land or boarded in a facility. For many who live paycheck to paycheck, interruption in income can be devastating for both horse and owner.
The original CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) enacted by Congress last year offered a bright spot to many. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to do away with any dollar amount when recurring monthly payments like utilities and rent or mortgage are due, as well as the ongoing expenses of necessities like food.
And then there are our horses.
Imagine you are unemployed for reasons out of your control, with benefits either running out or never received. The sweet, aged gelding in your backyard has no idea why you aren’t delivering his meals, and even spring’s fresh grazing grass is starting to run a bit thin.
What do you do? Where do you turn?
While I searched for organizations providing feed and hay assistance, I discovered the website for the United Horse Coalition in Washington, D.C. I reached out to them for their perspective on this current crisis and how it affects horse owners nationwide.
UHC is an alliance of equine organizations joined under the American Horse Council, a trade organization in Washington D.C. Their goal is to educate prospective horse owners and those of the horse industry on the issues facing at-risk horses or those in transition.
Those included in the collaboration are A Home For Every Horse, (sponsored by Purina, a 501(c) (3) where registered horse rescues may post their horses for free on Equine.com, the world’s largest horse marketplace) and The Right Horse Initiative (supported by industry professionals in a national movement concerning equine adoption). Together, these groups provide education and direction to horse owners and those horses in need.
United Horse Coalition Director Ashley Harkins quickly responded to my contact and provided information about their perspective on the COVID pandemic’s impact.
Harkins shared that initially, UHC received a high volume of requests from horse owners and rescues alike, both in need of assistance and safety net programs. This onslaught of requests spurred their creation of the UHC Equine Resource Database and the COVID-19 Equine Resource Center, dedicated specifically to assist horse owners, rescues, and horse businesses nationwide during the pandemic. Resources included grants, safety net programs, and other assistance programs that could sustain those in crisis.
The databases are still active and list, state by state, organizations available locally to those in need of hay and feed assistance.
Interestingly enough, the COVID climate has leveled regarding assistance requests, with no increase or decrease since July of 2020; data regarding website views support this.
With that said, Harkins states that since United Horse Coalition is mainly a warehouse of information, and at times only a go-between, the reality is they may not be seeing the complete picture. Since individual rescues are first in line for those needing assistance and providing safety net programs, they do not necessarily see how the pandemic affects respective owners. Most people looking for assistance navigate the provided resource database themselves and contact their local organizations for assistance, rather than UHC. Though they do receive some requests for help, they can only direct them to those actually providing.
However, they are extremely interested in the actual data regarding how the pandemic has affected horses and their owners, and are actively collecting information through the Equine Welfare Data Collective (EWDC) a program of the UHC. EWDC also requests anyone’s volunteered information regarding rehoming, veterinary assistance, euthanasia assistance, feed assistance, and more. Many of the ground zero rescues and organizations are EWDC members and contribute their own data.
The EWDC also collects data regarding equines in transition, including intake as well as outtake. They plan to compare analysis from 2018, 2019, 2020 and beyond.
Although smaller organizations are seeing fewer donations, the big surprise is that, according to The Right Horse Initiative, larger well-established non-profits are actually seeing an increase in virtual fund-raising and adoptions! It seems to parallel the increase seen in pet adoptions during the spring and summer lockdowns due to an unusual amount of extra time spent at home.
According to Ms. Harkins, they have certainly seen an outpouring of support from the equine industry to help those in need. Their question now is how long these organizations will be able to sustain these types of safety net programs to keep horses safe with their owners.
She also stated they at UHC hope 2021 starts a trend towards normalcy and recovery for horse owners and the horse industry as a whole.
We at HRL add our hopes as well, and would like to thank UHC and everyone dedicated to seeing horses and horse owners survive the economic crisis of COVID-19.
If you need assistance regarding the care and feeding of your equine friends during this crisis, or have a horse-related business experiencing difficulty, please visit the United Horse Coalition website and check out their resource links.