The Unwanted Horse

Dr. Marion Anderson, DVM, MS, President, Alberta SPCA

The term “Unwanted Horse” was coined within the last decade to describe the thousands of horses across North America whose owners no longer want to or are able to care for them, and who no one else wants to own. Certainly the aged and infirm fall into this category but so do many young, healthy horses.

Several factors have combined in the last decade to increase unwanted horse numbers to an alarming level including demographic shifts, increased urbanization, lack of knowledge and skills and the high cost of owning a horse.

Horses who find themselves in this state have very few options and often end up in situations in which they suffer long term neglect and abuse. Some may find their way to already overcrowded rescue farms. Others are simply abandoned to die of starvation, disease or injury or are sent to slaughter facilities.

This problem is currently under the radar in Canada and a higher level of awareness is required so viable solutions to this serious problem can be found. Options to deal with the current population of unwanted horses are needed beyond what already exists in the form of rescue farms and retraining programs. More importantly is the need for preventative initiatives to reduce the number of unwanted horses that swell the ranks every year; things like responsible breeding programs, programs to prepare professionals to correctly train horses and riders and educational opportunities to help new horses owners understand how to use and care for horses and to understand the real costs involves in acquiring a hors.

Key Learnings:
1. To become aware of the problem of unwanted horses in Canada and to understand the reason the issue has developed
2. To understand how the state of being unwanted results in huge welfare issues for the horse
3. To learn about current efforts that are being made to address the problem of the unwanted horse, and to recognize areas where more energy is needed to deal with and to prevent the problem


Dr. Marion Anderson 
was raised on a small ranch in Central Alberta and attended the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  After graduating with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, she spent three years at Iowa State University doing postgraduate studies in animal reproduction and earned her Master of Science degree. After returning to Canada, she spent two years at WCVM as an associate professor in ambulatory equine practice before establishing her own equine ambulatory practice in the Saskatoon area which occupied the next decade of her life. She returned to Alberta in the early nineties to work in mixed practice for a few years before joining a well know agricultural college in Central Alberta, Olds College, where she became the coordinator of the Equine Science program.  She has always had a keen interest in animal welfare and joined the Board of Directors of the Alberta SPCA in 2011 and was elected President in March of 2012.