Q&A: What’s It Like to Foster a Horse?
Christie Schulte Kappert with adoptable #RightHorse Micah. Micah is available for adoption through the ASPCA and is currently in training at Colorado State University's Equine Sciences program.
If you have the ability to keep horses at home or a local boarding facility, fostering could be a great way to combine your love of horses with your passion for helping animals. Christie Schulte Kappert is the Program Director for The Right Horse Initiative, the ASPCA’s dedicated horse adoption program. Last year, she embarked on the rewarding journey of becoming an equine foster home and is sharing her insights in honor of ASPCA Foster Appreciation Week (August 16-22, 2021).
Many people are familiar with the concept of fostering a dog or cat. Is fostering a horse similar?
Yes, fostering is similar in that equine foster caregivers get to be a temporary part of the horse’s life by housing and caring for them while they await their new adoptive home. Like dog and cat fosters, horse fosters often help network the animal to find their right person. Another similarity is that equine foster homes sometimes help train their foster horses, depending on the person’s and the horse’s experience levels.
Tell us, why is equine fostering important?
Equine fostering enables horse rescues to help many more horses by expanding their capacity. Tapping into the horse-loving community and those who already own horses can open up a lot of room in barns and pastures that might otherwise go unused.
Equine fosters can also bring new assets to the table, such as specialized training, medical experience or the ability to provide special housing (for instance, to a mare and her foal). Most importantly, horse people love connecting with other horsey friends—and foster caregivers are fabulous at spreading the word and helping their horses find adoptive homes more quickly!
In 2020 you fostered a horse named Peppermint Patti. Why did you choose to become a foster home and what was your experience fostering Patti?
I chose to become a foster home because we had space in our pasture and wanted to help a good horse in need find a home. Plus, it was a fun way to add another horse to the herd without a long-term commitment.
I was familiar with a local equine rescue, Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society, and heard they were sending a call out for more foster homes. They suggested a mare named Peppermint Patti who they felt would fit right in with our other horses, our home and our feeding and care routine. I had a great time getting to know her, brushing up her skills and exposing her to new situations, such as trail riding with my other horses to build her confidence.
How might people interested in equine fostering find a reputable organization to work with? What should they be looking for in a shelter or rescue?
A great place to start is myrighthorse.org, where interested fosters can browse horses available for foster as well as adoption. The shelter or rescue should be a non-profit or municipal organization, and generally be transparent and supportive throughout the foster process. For example, they’ll have guidelines on what fosters are expected to provide versus what the shelter covers, such as veterinary and farrier care, hay, grain and other supplies. A good organization will have staff (or volunteers) who are available to support fosters through any questions, such as behavioral or veterinary/medical issues.
What steps should a prospective foster home take before bringing a horse home?
Prospective fosters should consider what types of horses would fit well into their home. In our case, we have geldings who are “easy keepers,” meaning they don’t need much hay or grain to maintain a healthy weight, so it made most sense to foster a horse with similar feeding needs.
Tell the fostering coordinator about where you’ll be keeping the horse, any other horses you have, and your experience with handling horses, and they’ll work to find a great fit for your situation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek support from the shelter, who can help you get prepared or even connect you with a mentor.
Keep in mind that the goal of fostering is to help a horse in transition into an adoptive home rather than to find your own “dream horse,” so be open-minded about what kind of horses you’d like to foster. Finally, have fun and be creative helping your foster horse find a wonderful adopter.
And the ultimate question: did Peppermint Patti get adopted?
Yes, she did! Peppermint Patti went on to receive additional training, and then found a wonderful home in April 2021. It was so rewarding to be a small part of her journey, watch her progress and ultimately find her special person.