Two Former Competitors Find a New Purpose

September 13, 2019

Horses and their owners

Best friends Dusty and Woody were in need of a little extra horse-pitality. At 16 and 18 years old, the former Western event competitors suffered from lameness issues. When their owner sold his farm last year and was no longer able to take care of the pair, he called the ASPCA Regional Support Center, a pilot program located, at the time, near Dallas. The Regional Support Center provides a safe, no-cost option for horse owners to relinquish a horse they can no longer care for and offers access to basic veterinary care for horses in need. Dusty and Woody were taken in by our adoption partner, the SPCA of Texas, in August and found their new home in November.

During their three-month stay at the SPCA of Texas, the gentle horses were wonderful “ambassadors” for horses in transition, making appearances at events and on TV to help promote equine adoptions. At an SPCA open house, farrier Kurt H. and his wife, Karen, spotted the pair. They were looking for a new horse for their 14-year-old son, Hayden, whose current horse was getting too old to ride.

Kurt was immediately drawn to Dusty and Woody’s sturdy builds and intelligent, gentle personalities. “The most important issue to me was finding a horse who not only was physically healthy enough for my son to ride, but also had the right temperament,” he said. “As a child with Down’s Syndrome, Hayden does have some special needs, and finding the right match for him was a top priority.”

Hayden riding horse

Although anyone looking to adopt a horse should consider the care a new equine family member will require, Kurt knew that his blacksmithing background would allow him to address the two horses’ lameness issues and keep their feet and legs healthy. His family quickly decided to take home both horses.

Dusty and Woody have settled into their new home phenomenally over the past year. “Dusty is what I would consider ‘bomb-proof’ and just knows to be more careful when Hayden is on his back. He adapted really quickly and loves interacting with people,” said Kurt. “Woody is slightly more timid, but is learning quickly. I have every confidence knowing that when Hayden is with either Dusty or Woody, he’s in good hands.”

This was Kurt’s first time adopting horses, but he is pleased with how well Dusty and Woody’s personalities match up with his family. “They both seem to know they landed in a good place and have responded so nicely,” he said. “There are plenty of good horses waiting to be adopted!”

When dog and cat owners are unable to keep their pets, they can get help from a shelter, where the animals will receive humane care and be placed into safe and loving homes. Unfortunately, there are very few open-admission options available for equines at this time. However, the ASPCA—along with many of our shelter and rescue partners—are on a mission to change that for equines across the country, and the ASPCA Regional Support Center is providing the valuable data needed to achieve that goal.

The ASPCA Dallas Regional Support Center launched in 2018 to provide free equine-related services to suffering equines when their owners could not afford the high cost of veterinary care or humane euthanasia. Through our partnerships with a local veterinary clinic and several re-homing partners, we helped nearly 60 equines—including Woody and Dusty—in less than six months before ending the Dallas pilot and moving to a new location in 2019.

Now, a second Regional Support Center has recently launched in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This no-cost, open-door center offers a safe place for horse owners to relinquish horses who need rehoming and provides other services for equines in need.

Since our founding, the ASPCA has been dedicated to ensuring equines live good lives. But thousands of horses across the country are at risk of homelessness and poor welfare as they move from one career or home to the next. The ASPCA aims to help horses transition to new careers and safe homes by increasing the number of successful horse adoptions and offering other equine safety net programs.

For more information about the ASPCA’s efforts to improve welfare for equines, become an Equine Ambassador today.