Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2024

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Systems

Program or Major

Equine Science

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Sarah Rigg


The high inflation that has characterized the post-pandemic period in the United States has increased the costs of horse ownership for private owners and equine rescue organizations, which are facing critical pressures. Over 200,000 equines are at risk for neglect or slaughter in the United States each year, which far exceeds the capacity to house these equines at rescue organizations. While demand on these organizations is high, their ability to afford appropriate resources for their care is insufficient. This study examined geographical and economic factors that impact equine rescues’ success in taking in at-risk equines and adopting them to forever homes. The income/outcome ratios, average percent of equine deaths, and annual adoption rates were analyzed to evaluate regional rescue success. Although the lack of record-keeping amongst equine rescues proved to be a critical limitation, national and regional inflation trends were shown to greatly decrease the number of equine adoptions from 2020-2022. Critical shortages of equine veterinarians in certain regions proved to be another equine welfare concern with observable impacts on outcomes for at-risk equines. Other factors identified as impacting equine welfare outcomes included regional human and equine populations, average median household income, poverty, estimated veterinarian distribution, estimated employment rate, and regional ranking of animal protection laws. Implementation of record-keeping incentives, educational programs on equine husbandry and business management, and foster programs are likely long-term aids, however, while they should be implemented immediately, their impacts will take time to be felt. Short-term measures are needed to provide equine welfare relief until the impacts of long-term measures can be realized.