Adoption FAQ

Q: What does "Available for Adoption" mean?

A: DEFHR horses listed as "Available for Adoption" are horses who have completed their rehabilitation programs and are seeking forever homes.

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Q: What does "Available for S.O.S." mean?

A: DEFHR horses listed as "Available for S.O.S." are rehabilitated horses seeking forever homes through DEFHR's Save Our Seniors (S.O.S.) Program.

Horses in this program often require special treatment and attention due to advanced age or a chronic medical condition. Similar to adoption, horses available for S.O.S. are provided a forever home by compassionate caregivers. While caring for the S.O.S. horse, any expenses incurred by the caregiver are tax-deductible, including but not limited to: feed, stall bedding, veterinary care, farrier care, medication and supplements. (Click here to learn more about the charitable benefits for S.O.S. caregivers.) In an effort to ensure each horse continues to receive the level of care they deserve, DEFHR retains the titles for S.O.S. horses throughout their lifetimes and conducts annual visits to track their health. (Click here to view available horses.)

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Q: What is DEFHR's adoption radius?

A: DEFHR offers horses for adoption to homes in the following states:

  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia (Morgan, Berkely, and Jefferson Counties only)

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Q: How does DEFHR describe levels of horse handling experience?

A: DEFHR considers the experience level required for handling horses as follows:

  • Beginner – A beginner handler is still gaining confidence working with and around horses. Beginner handlers have basic training in leading and grooming well-behaved horses.
  • Intermediate – An intermediate handler is confident working with and around horses. Intermediate handlers have experience in leading and grooming horses and can correct minor inappropriate behaviors (such as pulling to stop and graze, refusal to pick up feet for cleaning, or spooking at shiny objects).
  • Advanced – An advanced handler is an expert in working with and around horses. Advanced handlers have experience training young or inexperienced horses in proper ground manners, including overcoming problematic behaviors (such as bolting, rearing, biting, or spooking).

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Q: How does DEFHR describe levels of horseback riding experience?

A: DEFHR considers the experience level required for riding horses as follows:

  • Beginner – A beginner rider is still gaining confidence in the saddle. Beginner riders are developing a balanced seat and mastering basic commands (such as moving forward from the leg, steering, halting, and backing up). The beginner rider is learning to tack, mount, and ride independently.
  • Intermediate – An intermediate rider has confidence riding well-schooled horses. Intermediate riders are developing an independent seat and can control their horse in unfamiliar circumstances (such as in the field, on the trail, or at a horse show). The intermediate rider can tack, mount, and ride independently – correcting minor inappropriate behaviors (such as walking off from the mounting block, kicking out in upward transitions, and stopping at the entry gate).
  • Advanced – An advanced rider is an experienced rider with confidence training young or green horses. Advanced riders rely on groundwork training and an independent seat to guide horses in engaging in correct and effective movement, overcoming new obstacles, and correcting inappropriate behaviors (such as bolting, bucking, or spooking).

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Q: Why does DEFHR have few horses suitable for beginner handlers and riders?

A: DEFHR receives horses who have been impounded by animal welfare officials for cases of abuse or neglect. As such, horses arrive at DEFHR with a variety of experiences and may not have received proper handling in the past - if they have been handled at all. DEFHR takes great care to gain each horse's trust, build its confidence, and provide training to help the horse learn to trust their handlers. Once a horse has completed rehabilitation and DEFHR has received full ownership from the impounding agency, the horse is made available for adoption and enters DEFHR's training program. Many horses available for adoption are in the beginning to middle stages of their training program and are best suited for experienced handlers that can continue to advance the horse's training in it's forever home.

See above questions for more information about how DEFHR describes each level of experience.

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Q: Why does DEFHR charge an adoption fee?

A: DEFHR asks for an adoption fee as a way to support it's life-saving work. Adoption fees vary from $100 to $1,200 depending on the horse's ability, temperament, and training. Horses available through the S.O.S. Program are offered at a flat fee of $35.

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Q: What is DEFHR's adoption process?

A: To adopt a horse from DEFHR, the following process must take place:

  1. Complete DEFHR's online Horse Interest Form (or click here to download and submit the form by mail)
  2. Upon receiving your Horse Interest Form, a DEFHR staff member will contact you to discuss horses available for adoption that may be suitable for your identified interests.
  3. Schedule a series of appointments to meet, handle, groom, and ride (if applicable) the horse. Horses available as companion animals require 2 appointments; horses working under saddle require 3 appointments (first appointment is groundwork only). The goal of these appointments is to ensure that horse and handler can build a successful and fulfilling partnership.
  4. Complete an Adoption Application and submit $10 application fee. References are required.
  5. Complete a Farm Inspection to ensure that the facility meets Maryland Horse Council's Minimum Standards of Care for Equines.
  6. Pending successful completion of the above steps, meet with DEFHR staff to submit the final adoption paperwork and take home your new equine partner.

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Q: How long does the adoption process take?

A: Once successfully paired with a horse, completing the adoption process can take as little as two weeks; this allows DEFHR time to contact references and conduct a farm inspection. If a suitable home is available, DEFHR will make every effort to expedite the adoption process in order to make room for other horses in need of care.

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Q: Can I place a horse "on reserve" by making a down payment or submitting an application?

A: No. DEFHR offers horses for adoption to suitable homes on a first-come, first-serve basis. Operating on limited resources, DEFHR cannot hold horses on reserve; doing so could mean having to turn away a critically ill or injured horse impounded by animal control. If a suitable home is available, DEFHR will make every effort to expedite the adoption process in order to make room for other horses in need of care.

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Q: Will DEFHR deliver the horse if I am unable to arrange transportation?

A: Yes, DEFHR will transport an adopted horse to its new home for a small fee. DEFHR charges a $75 hook-up fee and $1 per mile, round-trip.

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Q: If I adopt a horse, what medical care will the horse require?

A: All horses adopted from DEFHR are current on their care, including vaccinations, Coggins, farrier care, dental care and deworming. When adopted, copies of medical records and/or history are given to the adopter. For horses with unique needs, recommendations for future care are included.

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Q: Does DEFHR allow horses to undergo pre-purchase examinations?

A: DEFHR welcomes potential adopters to schedule a pre-purchase exam with a licensed veterinarian to ensure that the horse is suitable for your desired future career.

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Q: Does DEFHR allow adopted horses to be relocated outside its adoption radius or sold?

A: Yes. In most cases, after two consecutive years of successful farm inspections - ensuring the horse has been well-cared for and is continuing to thrive as an equine partner - DEFHR may sign over ownership to the adopter. However, horses adopted through the S.O.S. program will remain under DEFHR's ownership for the rest of their lives and may not be relocated or sold.

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