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Education and prevention help boost horse welfare

Media Contact: Allison Sandve, University of Minnesota Extension, office 612-626-4077, mobile 651-492-0811,

ST. PAUL, Minn.(June 1, 2016)— There are fewer neglected horses in Minnesota, a trend experts attribute to an improved economy, education and other preventive measures.

From 2008 to 2013, the state’s Animal Humane Society was called in to investigate conditions of an average of 1,400 horses per year, a 400 percent increase over previous years. While the numbers of horses owned in Minnesota has remained about the same, the number of animal welfare investigations in 2014 and 2015 dropped to a yearly average of 894.
Two horses in field

“There have been concerted efforts to respond on many fronts and we’re seeing the numbers decrease. Minnesota’s equine community is working hard to keep that trend going,” says Krishona Martinson, University of Minnesota Extension equine specialist. In addition to the recovering economy, Martinson cited several factors contributing to the improved status of Minnesota horses:

  • Greater public education through Extension: In addition to educational events, online materials have been widely shared and social media campaigns continue raising awareness.
  • Emergency help: The Minnesota Hay Bank has raised more than $76,000 and fed more than 600 at-risk horses.
  • Population control: 122 stallions were castrated at free clinics hosted by the Minnesota Horse Welfare Coalition, which also gave University veterinary students valuable experience with the procedure.
  • Feeder studies: Extension research found that when a feeder isn't used, up to 57 percent of hay is wasted, a finding that’s prompted greater innovation in feeder design and feeder use by owners.
Extension was awarded a $77,000 grant from the Morris Animal Foundation in 2011 to study horse neglect and develop prevention plans. In addition to its education and outreach, Extension hosted a major horse welfare summit in 2014.

When horses are mistreated, emaciated or ill, the costs for their veterinary care, lodging and other needs can run as high as $20,000 per horse. These costs are typically absorbed by the nonprofit sector.

Martinson cautioned that understanding what horse ownership requires is essential to continuing progress made over the last two years. Basic nutrition and health care for a healthy adult horse cost a minimum of $2,000 a year.

“Horses can easily live 25 or 30 years—and they usually get more expensive as they age,” she says. “It’s tempting to buy a horse, especially at a low cost or when it’s presented as an opportunity to rescue the animal. But like any other investment, horse ownership requires calculating the true cost and length of commitment.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Nancy Turner, president of This Old Horse, a nonprofit sanctuary for horses in Dakota County, and an advocate for responsible horse ownership.

“Education and outreach have made a big difference for many horses in Minnesota,” she says. “We need to keep that awareness high.”

The Extension horse program’s online resources features factsheets, webinars, podcasts and a monthly newsletter for horse owners and those considering ownership. It also features mobile phone apps that calculate cost of hay and estimate horse bodyweight.


For more news from U of M Extension, visit or contact Extension Communications at University of Minnesota Extension is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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