Horses are being abandoned in Arizona and elsewhere in the country because the economy and the drought have made it too expensive to care for them.
Some horses fall victim to the drug-smuggling business.
They are loaded with marijuana or other illegal drugs in Mexico, then led across the border into the U.S., where they are abandoned and left to die alone.
Others are dropped off by their owners in isolated or residential neighborhoods, because their owners can no longer afford to care for them.
Horses are also advertised on websites like Craigslist, for sale for as little as $25, for free or in exchange for a guitar.
According to the Unwanted Horse Coalition, an umbrella group representing equine organizations, shelters and rescue groups do not have enough resources to accommodate the many horses that are being abandoned.
“I just always have to be realistic and know that I can’t save them all,” said Karen Pomroy, president of Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization based in Amado, Ariz., that helps neglected and abused horses.
Horses are being abandoned because of the drought, which has been affecting much of the country, and the resulting high price of hay.
Then, there is negligence.
Pomroy said that many people do not understand how expensive it is to care for a horse — at least $250 to $300 a month — or know how long a horse can live: an average of 25 to 30 years.
On Saturday, Pomroy had been taking care of 45 horses on a 10-acre farm, which she said was at maximum capacity.
Space is not the only problem.
Pomroy said that in the nine years she has been running her rescue, the cost of caring for the horses has gotten steadily higher.
“Everything has pretty much gone up,” Pomroy said. “The hay, the supplements, gas, fuel for the tractor —things that people don’t think about.”
Maintaining her 45 horses is costing her about $25,000 a month, she said. She spends about $8,000 every seven weeks in hay and thousands more to care for the horses’ mental and physical health. A visit to the veterinarian can cost about $4,000, she said.
Other horse-rescue operations are facing similar challenges.
Jerry Finch, who runs Habitat for Horses in Hitchcock, Texas, was housing 150 horses on Sunday.
“There always have been and always will be people who are trying to get rid of a responsibility,” Finch said.
“If it’s between the horse and the kids, everyone will prefer to feed the kids,” he added.
Pomroy’s Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary is running on grants, donations and volunteers, she said. One volunteer, Kristin Carrington, who has been there for about three years, said that some horses have a hard time trusting people when they arrive at the rescue because of the neglect they had endured.
“What we are trying to do is let them figure out that we are not those people that hurt them in the past,” Carrington said.
She developed a technique to give the horses food or medicine. She runs and plays with them, then gets them to follow her to a designated area.
Although the horses are open to adoption, Pomroy has strict rules to avoid putting them into the hands of buyers who would sell them for slaughter.
While the horses are still at her ranch, Pomroy focuses on giving them a “happy life,” she said.
“I wish I didn’t have to do this because that would mean that horses are OK and they are safe; that would mean they are no longer abandoned or abused,” Pomroy said. “But for now, our mission isn’t over.”