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Adoption fees: How much is too much?

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  • Adoption fees: How much is too much?

    I like the idea of adopting. I several organizations around that have adoption fees that seem kinda low (less than $500) and other organizations that have higher adoption fees (more than $2000). Best I can tell, the less expensive orgs do very little beyond feed and maybe ride it a time or two. The more expensive orgs seem to put a bit more vetting, attention and training into the horse.

    What are your thoughts: cheaper and riskier adoption or more expensive and ready to go?

    I'm an average rider, I can ride a course, ride a buck, probably a little braver than I should be but not a trainer or professional.

  • #2
    I don't think you can generalize when it comes to something like that. The horses with the most "value" whether that value is in the form of training or athletic potential or just pretty to look at will have the highest fees normally. A good rescue will work towards increasing the horse's value as its through adoption fees that they make the bulk of their money. I adopted a horse from a rescue for $1200. If I had $25,000 to spend I couldn't replace him. Some people might think $1200 is too much but it was insanely cheap in terms of the value I got in return from him.
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home


    • #3
      And then there's New Vocations: http://www.horseadoption.com/ . I feel they have the most reasonable adoption fees when it comes to their horses.... Some of the horses are rideable, but their adoption fee is waived. I'm thinking it's because they are on the smaller side (around 14.2), need more training or have been there for a while and it's an incentive to get people to take a chance on a particular horse.

      I just think they have a great handle on what a particular horse/pony is worth to the public but treat each animal like it was worth a million bucks when adopting out. Their adoption contract is about as rigorous a contract as I've ever seen.... New Vocations seems to screen the horses pretty well before it goes onto a new home--just look at each horse's write up!

      Different rescues just have a different views on how they need to run their organizations--some have more expenses than others. If they want to continue to keep helping horses they have to be able to stay solvent and thus need to charge more for their adoptees. Some have longer stays than others and some have more training.... It all figures in.

      It's also up to the adopters as to how badly they want a particular horse. I don't need anything fancy and am not adverse to putting some training on an animal if it needs it.

      Only you know what you are capable of. "A man's got to know his limitations!", as Dirty Harry would say.... If you aren't working with a trainer then you should probably go with a horse that has had more training....
      "I'm not much into conspiracy theories but if everyone thinks alike you don't need a plot!" ~person from another bulletin board whose name has been long forgotten~


      • #4
        As a rescue too, I think adoption fees have little meaning. A great deal will depend on the market around us, the age of the animal, what it can do etc. etc. Because an adoption fee is low or nonexistant doesnt mean its had little or no work.

        I have an older pony mare who to me is worth her weight in gold but has no adoption fee. She is older and she is small. I have thousands into her because she comes back her time after time as she is outgrown. She becomes less adoptable each time and yet gets better and better with age.

        Every single horse we have comes with a return contract. If the horse is not what we say it is, or it is not a good match, providing you are using the horse as intended, we will gladly return your funds. The funds from adoption are the biggest part of our fundraising so..............dont assume that adoption fees are based on the ability of the horse please. The worst horses I have are the ones I would need the most money for if I were trying to recoup our costs.

        By the same token, if you go to craigslist, you can get a horse for free anytime so, people want to know why they should adopt one from me. They are no better, no worse.
        Our horses are not seen as the old and disabled they may have become, but rather as the mighty steeds they once believed themselves to be.

        Sunkissed Acres Rescue and Retirement


        • #5
          An adoption fee is "too high" when it reaches the point where you are not willing to pay that amount for the opportunity to pay a purchase price for something you will never actually own, and for which the only real advantage that conveys (other than giving you a warm and fuzzy) is that if you want and effortless, guiltless (perhaps even self-congratulatory, virtuous) way "out", you can dump the horse back on the "rescue" and walk away without a care in the world.

          For me, that's about $5.


          • #6
            Obviously, I work with CANTER doing a lot of the retraining but my opinion is strictly my own. NO amount is to much when you are allowed to own the horse.

            From the moment the horse arrives in my barn they are treated like a show horse. Blankets, clipped, wormed, chiro, farrier and dentist. They are put in a program that involves a lot of off the farm trips. They go to lessons, clinics, trail riding, x-c schooling, shows, foxhunting and more. In many cases, the horses are heading off the farm more than twice a week. They are all treated like individuals and brought along correctly.

            That type of mileage cost a lot of money but it makes a world of difference to a buyer who is looking for something that has a truly good restart on it. Many buyers do not mind paying for a horse that has been out and about because they don't want to handle all the FIRST time experiences. It also makes a huge difference when a horse has a show record compared to a horse that has just been lightly restarted in the ring. I feel justified charging more for show record because it cost money to establish it.

            Why should a rescue charge less than market value if they turn over ownership of the horse? In so many cases, I feel like I undervalue the horses that I work with for the amount of training they have. Yes, you can find tons of free Tb's out there and even cheap tb's who have been restarted but I would ask what kind of mileage do they have? Mileage=value. It proves they can trail rides, they can jump, they can stand on a trailer when another horse gets off, they stay sound in work and they are well rounded. I know the horse inside and out which makes it easy for me to match them with the RIGHT person the first time.


            • #7
              I have a horse that I adopted from CANTER. It doesn't matter to me that I would need to get approval on him if I were to sell him -- hopefully I will keep him forever.

              As for the adoption fees, I think you need to keep in mind that rescues often spend thousands of dollars helping the horses that are the least likely to be adopted or that have the most physical ailments.

              So, when you are adopting a horse from them you are not just paying for the horse you choose; you are helping to support an organization that helps other horses. The decision to adopt is more than just determining whether the horse is "market value."

              Now, I also agree that adoption fees should not necessarily be less than market value when a horse has been trained and campaigned just because the horse comes from a "rescue". I've read Jleegriffith's blog and I'd love to get my hands on one of the OTTBs that she's restarted . I've always restarted my own and know how much time, work and $$ go into it.
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


              • #8
                I think it depends on you!

                For most people, going with something like one of Jlee's horses is a better option than skinny in a field, fresh out of a bad place. You get a nice, well started, well matched horse, and Jlee (or her equivalent) has space to get another one started off on the right hoof.

                I think if you want a nice riding horse, you are probably better off paying more for something restarted (unless you have an eye and experience). If you want to be altruistic and won't be disappointed with horse that is tough to ride, then go take the skinny recent rescue for $500.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jleegriffith View Post
                  Obviously, I work with CANTER doing a lot of the retraining but my opinion is strictly my own. NO amount is to much when you are allowed to own the horse.
                  This. I wouldn't pay $5 if I didn't get ownership.

                  Why should I pay to be a foster home? I'm already assuming all of the costs associated with the anmal.
                  Oldenburg foals and young prospects
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                  • #10
                    Just steer clear of organizations like Secondwind! Do your homework on the legitimacy of the "rescue".
                    In an age when scientists are creating artificial intelligence, too many of our educational institutions seem to be creating artificial stupidity.—Thomas Sowell, Is Thinking Obsolete?


                    • #11
                      OK, I am going to make an unpopular post here.

                      There is no such thing as "adoption". There is no such thing as "rescue".

                      Organizations that call themselves "a rescue", are dealers, middlemen in the horse industry. They may be very good dealers, try to be honest about the horses they have for sale. Try to take excellent care of their sale horses, train them well, help them be better horses for their potential buyers. They may not have the incentive of "making money" that traditional horse dealers have. But they are still dealers. "Rescues" are repositories or waystations for horses who currently have few other options, and the organization cares for them, feeds and trains them (perhaps), until a buyer can be found. This can be advantageous for the horse, or not, depending on the innate quality of the animal and suitability for a potential owner yet unfound. "Rescues" take horses who are down on their luck, for free or cheap, or charge the previous owner money for the service, fix the horse up a bit, and resell it. Sometimes the price is set, the same for all horses offered. Sometimes it is raised if the value of the horse dictates it can be to help offset expenses, just like any dealer. If you think the horse is worth the money, you buy it. If you don't, you don't buy it.

                      Since the meat market operates on a quota basis, any horse removed from the road to the slaughter house is simply replaced by another horse, by a supplier who must find a certain number of pounds of horsemeat to keep his contract. So there is no net "saving" or "rescueing" of anything. Just a different horse ends up going for meat, a horse who may otherwise have found the home that the "rescued" horse took. There are a limited number of quality homes/owners, and horses all compete for them. The meat market uses the ones who lose out on finding that owner. It doesn't matter to them which one they get.

                      As a dealer, a "rescue" can ask any price they like for a horse. They can call it an "adoption fee" if they like, but if money changes hands, a sale is made and the nomenclature is simply marketing. They can give you contracts to sign along with the sale. If you feel you want to work with a middleman to purchase a cheap horse rather than dealing direct with the previous owner, that is entirely your perogative, and your decision. If the dealer/rescue offers a return policy on horses that don't work out, this can be an advantage to you that you will often not find with a direct deal. But expect to pay more from a middleman than you will by going direct to the source of cheap horses, the previous owner. That may be at the track, or at an auction, or in someone's back yard. The advantage to dealing direct is usually lower cost for the purchase, and you get to speak directly to the previous owner about the horse, and fewer stipulations in the sale contract. The previous owner may know more about the horse they are offering for sale, having owned it for longer. They may or may not be truthful honest people, or easy to get along with. Using the middleman, you will have to re-imburse for at least some expenses they have incurred, and marketing and advertising they do.

                      Everyone who used to want to buy a cheap horse simply went directly to the source, rather than a rescue. This was "the norm". Now there are "Rescues" involved. But going straight to the source, (often to the racetrack) often gives more selection to choose from in terms of numbers of horses that are offered. This can be an advantage to a shopper.

                      Horses are bought and sold, or leased. Rescues are dealers. Horses are property, chattel. Children are adopted.

                      Does this help you decide if an "adoption fee" is too much?


                      • #12
                        Well, for me (and this applies to small animals too), if I am doing an animal a favor by assuming responsibility and costs for its care, when that animal might otherwise not get the necessary care, I'm not inclined to pay for the privilege. Particularly if there are strings attached. If I want to do that sort of good deed, well, there are 'giveaways' in our local classifieds every day.

                        On the other hand- where a rescue organization might sell a rescued horse that is, or could become, a marketable prospect that could go to a good situation, sure, I can see paying a fair price for that horse, hopefully a profit for the rescue, that helps them to defray expenses for those left behind.


                        • #13
                          It's an interesting question. I have to say that I think Nancy makes a fair argument that "adoption" is not completely distinct from "purchase" (with a complex contract and buyer screening). One could say that in most cases a "rescue" or "adoption" horse is one that was given away by the previous owner to a dealer, who fixes it up and resells it with a contract that limits to one extent or another the uses or future resale of the horse. The marketing method adds an emotional component to the purchase, as one is not selecting a horse based solely on it's potential qualities or usefulness, but also because it feels good to think you have "saved" it.

                          The same thing can be thought of any "upgrade" purchased from a dealer or craigslist (where dozens of fairly pathetic horses can be found for cheap). The ex-Amish horse I bought years ago was paid for as a straight purchase. Her new life was certainly more comfortable and fun for her than her previous life, and it was nice to provide that for her. But I bought her because she had the qualities I wanted in a horse, not because I was saving her from her hard-working life.

                          For an interesting comparison, a big horse dealer in this area has a special category of sales called "hobby horses" - these are aged ex-camp or ex-trail string horses, typically not much to look at, over 15 years of age, and the perfect horse for a kid or weekend mom/dad rider to plug around on safely - all listed at under $1000.


                          • #14
                            Just to offer another opinion--we (CANTER Mid Atlantic) tried the super cheap purchase price (we transfer ownership, so it is actually a sale), but we place FAR less horses that way. A super cheap price on a horse gets people in the mindset that "something is wrong with it".
                            That's why we began the two tiers of pricing with our CANTER owned horses. If we have not put the time and training into a horse, it remains under 1000$, and often under 700$. Once it goes into our retraining program (of which Jlee is a big part), we start to price them at fair market value.
                            Wouldn't you know it, folks start looking at the retrained horses as a viable sporthorse purchase possibility, instead of a cheap, "somethings gotta be wrong here" type "rescue".
                            The system works to get horses into new homes--it does not increase our "profits" though, because we have put a lot more time/board/vet/shipping/competitions/chiro/etc into the horses by the time they are sold.

                            My personal thought is, if you have the vision that we do to take a horse from the fuzzy, out of shape, long-mane, undermuscled animal it is and turn it into something desired by the sporthorse world, more power to you (that means more horses into more homes!). But you cannot persecute rehoming or rescue groups for doing the same and asking a fair price for it.

                            I think there is a big gap in what people want, and what people see--meaning, many shoppers are lacking the vision it takes to know what they are truly looking at when horses look like this:

                            and know that in time and with work, it will soon look like this:

                            Why shouldnt the group be compensated for their time and effort?


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by NancyM View Post
                              Since the meat market operates on a quota basis, any horse removed from the road to the slaughter house is simply replaced by another horse, by a supplier who must find a certain number of pounds of horsemeat to keep his contract. So there is no net "saving" or "rescueing" of anything.
                              There are organizations that have nothing to do with slaughter - like ours - who do rescue horses. We strictly work with law enforcement officials - the horses who come into Bluebonnet weren't in the slaughter pipeline. They were starving to death in someone's field or barn, found abandoned, or discovered wandering stray. We are not the only organization who works this way.

                              Now, as to the OP's question - a fair adoption fee is what you feel is fair. When we set an adoption fee for a horse, we don't look at what we have into the horse (if we did, no one would ever pay the fee ). We try to look at what similar horses are selling for and then knock the fee down a bit.

                              The advantages to adopting from us? The horses have current vaccinations (VEWT, flu/rhino, rabies and WNV and strangles for young horses). They have had their teeth check (and floated if needed) in the past year. They have a current neg. coggins, are current on de-worming and farrier care. We also do our best to tell you as much as we know about their past (often not much since they come from seizures or are found abandoned) and about their behavior while in the rescue.

                              We don't put them up for adoption until they're at a healthy weight, have been vetted and are at least halter broke. We send as many of our horses as we can afford to pro trainers (and tell you that). We'll also refund your adoption fee if you return the horse in 30 days - we want adoptions to work out. And we do partial refunds for the first year.

                              The downside is that we don't allow breeding and only allow limited 'resales/rehoming'. We had a lot of adopters who LIKE that because they tell us they know that if something happens and they can't keep the horse that we'll prescreen future adopters.

                              We work to improve our process and also realize that it isn't what works for everyone. Some people have the knowledge to go out and buy at auction and don't want to be tied to a rescue.

                              I will say that our horses have gone on to do almost everything - we have a pair of driving mules on trail rides, Pony Club and 4-H horses, hunters, jumpers, eventers, dressage horses, working cow horses, etc etc. etc.

                              Not all organizations are created equal. If you find a horse you want to adopt, ask around in the community about the organization. Ask them about how many horses they adopt out (and how many are returned - and why). And make sure you go meet the horse in person and get to handle him. And ride him if he's broke to ride. And then you decide what you can pay for whatever restrictions an adoption group might place on you.
                              Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

                              Want to get involved in rescue or start your own? Check out How to Start a Horse Rescue - www.howtostartarescue.com


                              • #16
                                Nancy makes very relevant points as far as I am concerned. There are a number of independent "rescue centers" in my area and I've visited all of them a few times over the years and my beliefs are that almost all of them are nothing but dealers.

                                These have been my findings over the years I've kept tabs on these "rescue centers". In many many cases the feet haven't been tended to, clearly some horses were unwell and even though they had been at the "rescue center" for months, no vet had attended. Flash looking ones being advertised for thousands, like $4,000 - $5,000 and even then on viewing them these horses were absolutely not 100%. All of these "rescue centers" had logistical and financial issues, right down to running out of their black mouldy hay and feed and making many pleas on local websites asking for money.

                                From what I have gleaned, these dealers, because that really is what they are! have scammed people and still are and in my opinion they should either be closed down or have their charity/not for profit/whatever status stripped from them which would place them on the same level playing field as the rest of the low end dealers.

                                Obviously my comments are not across the board, but with the "rescue centers" that are in my vicinity, they absolutely are bang on!

                                I take in a number hopeless and uncared for, neglected horses most years and when they come to me their lives are turned around. With the ancient old sad and sorry ones, I get them back to a good condition and then they live here for the rest of their lives. For the younger ones, I build them back up again and a year or so later once we've put a lot of time and money into them I place them on the open market as regular riding horses, not under the guise of "rescues". I have no wish to be seen as a charity and I have no need for donations. The way I look at it is the young ones make a bit of profit and what they make pays for the old ones to remain here, although I'm not sure it really works out like that but whatever, I take in what I can afford.

                                I feel very strongly against the "rescue centers" in my area and would actually like to see all of them shut down because they make an absolute mockery of the whole thing.