Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society

Costs of Rehabilitating a Rescue Horse

By Dr. Jennifer Williams

Many people really do not understand how expensive rehabilitating horses can be. Often, people decide to get involved in rescue without a good idea and are quickly overwhelmed by the expenses. Other times, people question the adoption fees charged by rescue organizations – not understand that rescue organizations rarely break even, let alone come out ahead, on the horses they place in adoptive homes.

It is important to remember that the first few months are generally the most expensive – many neglected, injured, or ill horses need laboratory tests and veterinary work during their first month or two. Additionally, they need extensive nutritional support during this time.

In addition to the financial costs of rehabilitation, rehabilitation takes time and man-power. Horses may need to be fed more frequently, may need to have injuries or illnesses treated, and may require hand-walking or other daily exercise. Horses may be restricted to stall rest which means you must also spend time cleaning the stall frequently.

We’re going to share a few ‘case studies’ to help demonstrate the costs of rehabilitation:

Case #1

Two four-year-old Quarter Horse/pony cross fillies were removed from a neglectful home by law enforcement officers. When the fillies arrived in their foster home, they were in body conditions of approximately 1.0. They had limited access to grass pasture and had to be supplemented with grain and hay. Rehabilitation took 3-4 months.


4 round bales of hay$200
12-16 lbs of Strategy feed/day per horse$450
3 lbs. of alfalfa cubes (soaked in water)/day/horse$120
4 dewormings/filly$100
Farrier work (luckily their feet were in good shape and did not require extra work)$100
Veterinary work: Both fillies needed their teeth floated, Coggins tests drawn, and vaccinations$500
There were also various costs such as fly spray, mineral blocks, gas to haul the fillies to the vet multiple times for vet work (they were too weak to withstand all vet work at once), etc.$200
Total cost of rehabilitation$1670

One filly was adopted out for approximately $400 and the other for approximately $500.

Case #2

An older (25-30 year old) gelding was donated to a rescue after he had lost significant weight in his previous home. Due to his age and condition, rehabilitation took about six months. He was kept stalled with daily turnout.


Hay: 2 bales/week at a cost of $5/bale$240
Grain: He was fed chopped alfalfa, Equine Senior, and beet pulp twice/day$450
Supplements: Farrnam Weight Builder$90
Wormer: Wormed twice when he initially came to the rescue and another two times after that$40
Farrier work: 3 trims at $25/trim$75
Veterinary work: Initial vet exam for overall health$50
Second veterinary visit for vaccinations and teeth float$150
Total cost of rehabilitation$1095

Adoption fee: $300

Case #3

A 18 year old, grade gelding was donated to the rescue after his owners could no longer care for him. He was foundered in both front feet and had not been treated for founder. He was kept on pasture with other horses but had to have his diet supplement with grain/hay.

With founder rehabilitation, horses need extra foot care. Their feet need to be trimmed more frequently and they often need to be soaked in water daily. Foundered horses need to be hand-walked to encourage movement and exercise.

These are the costs for the first month of rehabilitation:

Feed (hay and oats)$100
Old Mac Boots (to protect his feet as he recovered)$150
Nutritional herbal supplements (Pharmaceutical quality Echinacea and Devil’s Claw$280
Bute (for pain management)$30
Veterinary work
Teeth float$100
Lameness exam$50
Radiographs to determine degree of rotation (founder)$80
Blood work$25
Total cost for first month of rehabilitation$1090

This horse may undergo anywhere from 6 to 12 additional months of rehabilitation. As he gains weight, the amount of feed/month will decrease and as his feet improve, the costs of trimming and bute may decrease.

This horse’s adoption fee will most likely be somewhere between $300 and $500.