Abuse can be an imprecise term when used to categorize all wrong forms of treatment toward a horse. Beating, starving, neglecting, drugging – they’re all types of abuse, but in the eyes of most court systems, two terms generally categorize each: abuse and neglect.

horse abuse and neglect

What is horse abuse

First, there’s abuse, which is the intentional physical abuse of an equine animal. This is a little rarer and it’s hard to define during the training process. What constitutes abuse versus training? What looks like training to one might look like abuse to another. It’s a difficult debate. Training which inflicts injury, physical cuts, or involves lack of food, water, or care is seemingly more cut and dry.

What is horse neglect

Neglect can encompass a lot of different situations. It could be the owners don’t know what they’re doing with horses and are in over their heads. Oftentimes owners need to be better educated. But there’s also financial setbacks, apathy and chemical dependency that cause horses to be neglected.

What’s more common

In most cases, neglect far outnumbers abuse. That’s at least a positive sign that with better education and prevention, problems can be more easily thwarted in the future. Intentional physical abuse is a horrible thing, so it often gets more attention from the public and the media when it happens.

How it affects the horse

All of these sad situations can have permanent effects on a horse. No matter how long they live, horses always seem to have that moment where a memory is triggered and they return to that dark place when trauma surfaces. This poses a problem for any future trainers or owners who handle them, and they often need extra special care from then on.

What you can do

If you think you see a situation of abuse or neglect, it’s best to report the case so that someone qualified can check it out. Sometimes situations aren’t what they seem, so tread lightly. When you’re looking for neglect or abuse, you’re trying to identify violations of the law, not personal standards of care that vary from person to person. Most experts say that only half of all complaints turn out to be justified, and the more that unfair complaints are made the more they’ll be taken less seriously by law enforcement. Remind yourself to do what’s in the best interest of horses since they need advocates to speak for them.

How to Identify Horse Abuse & Neglect