Equine RRSP: Retirement, Rescue, Slaughter and Public Attitudes


Dr. Bettina Bobsien DVM, Veterinarian, Private Practice

Horses are long-lived animals and are frequently sold or re-homed many times during their lives. The average lifespan of horses has increased dramatically in the past 25 years due to advancements in nutrition, dental care and management of geriatric diseases. Societal attitudes around euthanasia and slaughter of horses past their working lives have also changed, as many people find this option unacceptable. As a result, many horses now may have very long retirements and frequently outlive their owners’ willingness and ability to care for them. Horse rescue agencies frequently take on these animals, but without assured long-term funding and a care plan, there can be poor welfare outcomes for older animals. Animal welfare agencies need to be educated and prepared for the demographic bulge of aging horses and their aging owners, who may not be able to take care of them until the end of their natural lives. The care needs of geriatric horses including housing, feeding and medication will be discussed, as well as end-of-life options.


  1. The lengthening lifespan of horses in North America and the implications for animal welfare agencies.
  2. The financial and care needs associated with caring for older horses.
  3. End-of-life options for horses without willing caregivers.

Dr. Bettina Bobsien is a veterinarian with over 25 years’ experience in clinical practice. She is an Equine Diplomate with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, has a Bachelor's degree in Agriculture (Animal Science) and is a Canadian Veterinary Reserve member. Bettina was member and chair of the College of Veterinarians Animal Welfare Committee for the past 6 years. Since 2010, she has worked closely with the BC SPCA.