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Where to Find Free and Cheap Horses for Adoption

Holle is a lifelong horse lover who has owned more than 50 horses over the years. She writes to share her passion for all things equine.

I've been a horse lover since birth!

I've been a horse lover since birth!

Is Adopting a Horse for You?

Are you looking into horse adoption? I’m always surprised and somewhat saddened by the number of free horses available. And if you have a small budget, you can also find many more very inexpensive horses on the market.

Owning a horse is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life—but it’s not for everyone. If you love equines, all the free horses you can find now make it very tempting to finally fulfill your dream of owning a horse, but before you check out horses for adoption, make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Before you even consider horse adoption, you need to do a lot of research, along with doing a very honest assessment of your finances and your time. Owning a horse and caring for it properly is a huge commitment that not everyone is willing or able to make. If you’re new to horses or horse ownership, I hope my tips on horse adoption will give you some points to strongly consider. Enjoy the horse photos as you read!

In This Article

  • Where to find free horses
  • Info about horse rescues
  • Where to find cheap horses
  • Costs of horse ownership
  • What to consider before adopting
  • Photos, videos, and more!
Quarter horses

Quarter horses

Free Horse Ads Are Common

Although I don’t own any horses at the present time, I’m still a horse nut, and I often browse the horse classifieds online and in newspapers. My time on the horse classifieds is my version of “window shopping.” Two of my daughters, also horse lovers, are both hoping to find homes in the country with some acreage. As soon as that happens, I’m buying horses for my daughters, my grandkids, and for myself.

I can’t tell you how many free horse ads I’ve run across. Admittedly, some of the free horses are aged or have medical conditions. Some are unrideable due to lameness, breathing problems, or other health conditions. That’s why you need to fully investigate the animals described in free horse ads. If the owner states that the horse can’t be ridden, don’t assume that you know better. Believe me, if the horse was capable of carrying a rider, the owner would have no incentive to say otherwise. Of course, if you’re just wanting a horse as a pasture ornament or to serve as a companion for another horse, it won’t matter if the free horse can be ridden or not.

This is Audrie on Skittles

This is Audrie on Skittles

Where to Find Free Horses

There are lots of places to find free horses. Although I don’t own horses right now, I've owned many over the years, and a lot of people in my community know about my experience. Rarely does a week go by when I don’t run into some horsey person trying to give me a free horse!

Where to Look

  • If you know any horsey people, start by asking them. They might very well know of some free horses available in your area.
  • Horse rescues (see more info below)
  • Local stables and riding academies
  • Tack and feed stores
  • Veterinary offices
  • Online classifieds: Equine.com has a special section just for free horse ads. The Horse.com also has several free horse ads. Equinenow and Horsetopia often advertise free horses, too.
  • Other classified ads: You might find a few ads in newspapers and horse magazines.

Even More Options

If you exhaust all of the potential sources listed above for free horses, start hanging around other places horse people frequent.

  • Local horse shows: Go to these shows and let people know you’re looking for a free horse. Leave your contact information with several prospects, and it probably won’t be long before you find out about some free horses that are needing good homes.
  • Horse sales and auctions: Sometimes you can find free horses and very cheap horses at horse sales and auctions. Get there early, well before the auction starts. Once the horses have been consigned to the sale barn, the owner will probably have to pay a sale fee, even if he decides to give the horse away instead of running it through the sale ring.

Please remember, though—free horses aren’t really free in the long run, as my dad told me long ago. A free horse might not cost a cent to purchase, but you’ll find that keeping and maintaining so-called free horses won’t actually be free or cheap.

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Horse Rescue Option

You wouldn’t believe how many unwanted horses there are these days. Many horse rescue facilities in the United States are at full capacity, and most are having to turn horses away. That’s a real tragedy for strapped owners who want to turn over their animals to rescue facilities. Unfortunately, owners have limited choices when it comes to finding options for their unwanted horses.

Plight of the Unwanted Horse

It’s sad when you have to give up a beloved animal that has served you well and provided loyal service. You want your four-legged friend to go to a good, loving home. You try to sell it first, but you don’t have any takers. You try your best to give the horse away, placing "free horse" ads on the internet, at feed stores, and in the horse classifieds of your local newspapers. Still, you get no takers. You try to find a horse rescue to take your pal, but all the horse rescues are full. Of course, you have the option of taking your horse to an auction, but you know it could end up with a “kill buyer” and be subjected to a tortuous long trip on a crowded truck, perhaps having to go for days without food and water before being painfully slaughtered in a Mexican facility. What options are left?

Desperate Measures Taken by Horse Owners

When horse owners can’t sell their animals, give them away, or turn them over to horse rescues, some get desperate. A few sneak into a nearby horse rescue and leave their steed tied up to a fence under the cover of night. Some release their unwanted horses in state parks, federal land, or on highways, leaving the animals to fend for themselves. Some even take their unwanted equines to horse shows and leave them in empty trailers. Those who can afford it may turn to humane euthanasia when they have no other options, but this isn’t cheap—there’s the cost of the injection and the price of disposing of the carcass. Unfortunately, some owners do nothing, allowing their unwanted horses to slowly starve to death.

All U.S. States Have Horse Rescues

I’ve spent some time on the internet searching for horse rescues by state. I’m happy to report that every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, has at least one horse rescue. In fact, most states have several. To find a horse rescue near you, go online and search for "horse rescue" and the name of your state.

Flea-bitten mare

Flea-bitten mare

Cheap Horses Are Plentiful

In addition to free horses, cheap horses are easy to find if you know where to look. I’ll give you a couple of real-life examples from my own experience.

For my horse-crazy granddaughter’s sixth birthday, I bought her a beautiful, well-trained pony for $50. A week later, the pony died from a rattlesnake bite. My granddaughter was heartbroken, so I set out to buy her another mount. This was before her other grandparents decided they couldn’t go through having another horse on their place. I shopped the horse classifieds and found numerous cheap horses. I had decided on a small horse I found in South Georgia, not too far from us. The horse was beautiful, young, gentle, and well-trained. In fact, it had won numerous ribbons at horse shows, and it was in perfect health. The price for the horse was just $200.

No Such Thing as a Free Horse?

I’ve always been horse crazy, and I pestered my parents mercilessly until they finally gave in and bought me a horse. Before that wonderful Christmas morning, however, I begged and pleaded for a horse constantly. I even found a few free horse ads, sure that my parents couldn’t oppose a free horse. I remember my father responding several times with, “There’s no such thing as a free horse!”

At the time, I didn’t understand his statement. After all, the ads specifically stated that the horses were free—the owners were giving them away, so they wouldn’t cost my mom and dad a penny. Dad was a wise man, and as it turned out, he was correct. Although no purchase price was involved, there really is no such thing as a free horse.

Horses eat a lot, which costs money!

Horses eat a lot, which costs money!

Owning a Horse Is Expensive

Owning a horse is expensive. I’ve owned more than 50 equines over the years, so I know whereof I speak. I’ve boarded horses at stables, kept them on my own mini farm, and kept them on my ex-in-laws’ vast cattle farm.

Owning a horse that you have to board is the most expensive, obviously. You have a monthly boarding fee that might or might not include the cost of feed and the feeding, watering, and turn-out tasks. If you have to travel to the boarding stables twice a day to care for your animal, you also have to figure in time and gas money.

For me, the cheapest way of owning a horse was when we lived on the cattle ranch. We grew acres and acres of pasture, so the horses stayed fat and slick mostly from grazing.

Okay, so let’s say that you have free access to sufficient grazing, so you don’t have to spend much on horse feed. Think you’re home-free? Think again!

Costs to Consider

  • Boarding (discussed above)
  • Feed
  • Salt and mineral blocks
  • Regular vet care, vaccinations, and wormings
  • Unexpected vet visits (horses are pretty accident-prone)
  • Regular hoof care
  • Possibly dental care

Time and Work

Now, let’s talk about the time and work involved with owning a horse.

  • Feeding (twice a day)
  • Watering (twice a day)
  • Daily grooming plus proper hoof cleaning
  • For stalled horses: daily mucking (this is hard work!), daily exercise, and mental stimulation
  • Tack requires regular attention

Don’t get me wrong—owning a horse is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. But people need to understand everything that horse ownership involves before they adopt a horse. Unfortunately, some novice horsemen go into owning a horse totally unprepared, creating a bad situation for both horse and owner.

If you’re completely sure you can afford the financial responsibilities and the physical and time demands of owning a horse, go for it!

Jonathan and Lexi going on a trail ride

Jonathan and Lexi going on a trail ride

Horses for Adoption: Facts and Considerations

Let's say you find a horse for adoption. What do you need to know about the process?

Fees and Requirements

  • Fees: There might be an adoption fee involved. Such is the case with most horse rescue facilities.
  • Requirements: Some horse rescues also have pretty strict guidelines for adopting a horse. You might have to prove that you know how to care for a horse, that you have a proper place to keep a horse, and that you have the financial means necessary for owning a horse. You might get frustrated with all the red tape presented by the horse rescue, but most horse rescues have only the best intentions in mind. They don’t want to add to the problem of unwanted horses.

Some animal shelters also have free horses, although some shelters accept only small animals. Actually, these probably won’t be free horses, exactly. They’ll be horses for adoption, so you’ll have to pay an adoption fee. Still, the fee will usually be nominal.

What to Look For

When you’re looking at horses for adoption, don’t get the first pretty horse you see. Looks aren’t nearly as important as training, temperament, and health. Ride the horse first to make sure you can handle it. Also, find out as much as you can about the horses for adoption. If possible, contact the former owner to learn more.

Lexi and her miniature horse

Lexi and her miniature horse

U.S. Horse Sales Have Been Down

One of the reasons that more horses seem to be available for free or for cheap is that horse sales have been down for the past few years. This is due to several factors:

  • The economy: When the economy goes down and the unemployment rate goes up, horses are affected because many of them are considered to be luxury items. When a family feels a financial pinch, the “extras” like horses are often the first to go.
  • Grain and hay prices: Another reason for depressed horse sales is because of rising prices for grain and hay. Horses cost a lot more to feed than they used to.
  • Slaughterhouses: A third reason has to do with horse slaughterhouses in the United States. When a law was passed that forced the slaughterhouses to close in 2007, the bottom price for equines plummeted. I am not in favor of killing horses, but I do admit that it has an effect on the price of equines. In 2011, the law was allowed to expire, but in 2014 it was renewed.
This old horse is perfect for kids.

This old horse is perfect for kids.

Horse Photos

This section is devoted to horse photos. There's no information provided—just mindless entertainment and fodder for daydreaming. I hope you appreciate the beauty, power, and elegance of horses as much as I do!

Sorrel gelding

Sorrel gelding

Jousting

Jousting

Paint gelding

Paint gelding

Paint Mare

Paint Mare

Nice horsie!

Nice horsie!

A nice filly

A nice filly

Horses benefit from grazing.

Horses benefit from grazing.

Well-trained horses are friendly.

Well-trained horses are friendly.

Horseback riding on the beach

Horseback riding on the beach

My middle daughter is another horse lover.

My middle daughter is another horse lover.

One of my students at my Renaissance Festival

One of my students at my Renaissance Festival

Lexi, yet another horse lover in the family.

Lexi, yet another horse lover in the family.

Tristan, making friends

Tristan, making friends

Audrie is ready to saddle up

Audrie is ready to saddle up

Miniature horse

Miniature horse

Draft horse

Draft horse

Georgia Renaissance Festival

Georgia Renaissance Festival

Sorrel with blaze

Sorrel with blaze

Black and white Paint

Black and white Paint

Percheron gelding

Percheron gelding

Horse Adoption Resources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

I on July 01, 2019:

I am a horse lover I pony rides at my 5 year birthday party, I took riding lessons, in Ga. I took riding lessons at horse stables now it called horse town they closed it down because of owner, then from Marcy that taught me how ride at her4 home, and I took riding lessons from Laura Underwood my mom's former boss he was a Dr. and his daughter that taught me riding lessons and I moved to Al. and took riding lessons Deputy Sheriff Suzanne Terrill she owns a horse ranch it's called Horse and heart ranch I almost learned how take care of horses I have small dog she is a maltese doxen mixed she is beautiful thank you very much Marie Young

Marie Young on May 24, 2019:

I love these cute horses! Their are so pretty and cute 2563282165

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on November 10, 2018:

Stephanie, it depends on whether you adopt a horse from an individual or from an organized rescue.

Stephanie Pepe on November 10, 2018:

Hello if you want to adopt a horse do you need to give money?

allyson dickinson on September 14, 2014:

I think you have some very pretty horses

Melissa from Mississippi on April 23, 2014:

I so agree with your article. Everything from there is no free horses when you think of the care involved. I have had a few horses throughout my life and some were wonderful horses and some lol not so wonderful. Anyone that is thinking of getting a horse really needs to check out your blog. Again thanks so much for the information.

Abigail on March 18, 2014:

I am looking for an Arabian very cheap lepard color plz my daughter is dying for one. After her Welsh cob died she got very deppressed and it was bad now that i said i get her another horse she has lost weight and is happy plz i need it in a week and a half plz if u are selling my limit is 900,000!

Maynard on September 30, 2013:

Hi everyone, I am preparing to open a therapeutic riding center in Trinidad, in January 2014. This will be a non profit center and I am seeking some assistance in the way of donations. Anything equipment you can give that will be useful in the success operation for the disable. If you can, contact me @

brasseym@yahoo.com

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 25, 2013:

Ashley, check with local vets, animal shelters, feed stores, and tack shops. I'm always hearing about folks trying to give away a horse. I hope you find one soon and that your daughter loves it.

Be sure to check the internet sites I mentioned in the article, too. Check back often, as the sites are updated frequently.

ashley on July 25, 2013:

hi. My name is ashley im desparetly trying to find my daighter a horse for her birthday. She has been through a very tramic life change here recently and all ive heard since she could talk was i want a horsey. Ive got the finaces to take care of the horse but not to buy one i want to find a gentle horse that someone wants to go to a good home filled with love and that's what would happen if i could just find a "free" horse. where do i go to find one. plz point me in the direction to make my babies dream come true. thank u

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 18, 2013:

Wish I could, wasdd!

wasdd on May 18, 2013:

Would you bring me a horse to 443longcreek road

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 24, 2013:

Jenn, that's a great situation for all parties involved - the rider, the horse, and the owner. Some owners let people ride in exchange for cleaning stalls, grooming horses, or doing other chores.

Thanks for sharing!

Jenn-Anne on March 24, 2013:

Great hub! I've never owned my own horse but I used to ride quite often. I had a standing agreement with a family friend and nearby farm owner that I could ride one particular horse any time I wanted as long as I let him know ahead of time. This was a great compromise in that the owner got help with the exercise and care of the horse and I got my "horse fix" without having to take on the financial responsibility. I recommend it for anyone that has the opportunity. Will share your hub with my horse-loving friends. Voted up!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 21, 2013:

Jmillis, that's great! I'm glad it turned out well for you and the horse. There are tons of great horses for adoption. I wish more potential owners would explore that option.

Jmillis2006 from North Carolina on March 19, 2013:

I use to own an off the track thoroughbred rescue, I got from the farm I board at he was the best horse ever I even road him until I was 32 weeks pregnant with my daughter and could no longer get on, unfortunately after 5 years he became pretty arthritic and could no longer keep up with my ridding needs, I could only afford to board one horse so when I got my 2 year old quarter horse , I had to let him go. The good news is my friend that owns the farm I board at and who was also the original owner took him back. It was a win- win I still get to see him as does she and he has the cushy retirement he deserves.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 11, 2013:

Angie, have you checked Horsetopia and Equinenow? I think they have a section for free horses. Good luck!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 11, 2013:

equine, that's a great idea if you don't know the buyer. Thanks!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 11, 2013:

Thanks, Margie. I appreciate that!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on March 11, 2013:

Adikins, you're very welcome!

angie12345678910 on March 11, 2013:

i want a cheep horse were can i get one

Melissa Kanzelberger from Hillsboro, MO on August 19, 2012:

Recently, horse slaughter was re-legalized in the United States, signed into law by congress and our president. Therefore, if you are offering a horse for sale, I strongly advise you to ask higher-than meat prices.

http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/are-thousand...

Mmargie1966 from Gainesville, GA on May 17, 2012:

Such beautiful animals, they are! I wish I could have one, but I live in an apartment at the moment.

By the way, I backlinked this hub on my animal rescue hub.

Great job, habee!

adikins on May 16, 2012:

i never knew horses could be such and influence in my life the are so loyal and beautiful!!!!

thank u so much habee

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 09, 2012:

Msmillar, nice to meet another horse person! Thanks for including that warning about free horses on some websites. I wasn't aware of that.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 09, 2012:

Thanks, Claire. I don't want folks to add to the problem of unwanted horses, so I want them to understand everything involved with owning horses.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 09, 2012:

mb - I'm glad the hub brought back nice memories for you, too. Thanks for reading!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 09, 2012:

fpherj - Yep, it's true about free horses. Glad the hub brought back good memories!

Joanna from Wilseyville on May 08, 2012:

Great hub! I'm "into" horses also. Like your hub says, Equine.com & Horsetopia.com are both good for finding free or low cost horses. Your readers should beware of some ads at other websites, which I won't mention here. They offer a free horse but its just a scam to get your personal information. The scammers respond with an unusually long email ending with personal questions. There's plenty of honest people with free horses and I'm glad to see you promoting them!

Claire on May 08, 2012:

Adopting a horse is a kind and generous thing to do, but it is good tha you pointed out the cost and need for knowledge.

MaryBeth Walz from Maine on May 08, 2012:

Habee, what a great hub (as usual!) I especially loved the pictures. Although I never owned a horse, my father did ferrier work on the side and I just loved going with him. He was stern but so gentle with the horses. So, although I'm not in the market for a horse, it did bring back some warm memories! Thanks!!

Suzie from Carson City on May 08, 2012:

Habee...I would never have thought that there are free horses available. This is news to me.

They are such an elegant and regal animal.

We did a lot of horseback riding as a family many years ago and I fell in love with the incredibly gentle and intelligent beasts. Unfortunately never owned one.

Very nice pictures in your hub. I especially like the kids on the darling ponies.

UP and awesome!!

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