In the U.S., the estimated number of unwanted horses is approximately 170,000 per year. In 2009 the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC) performed a survey in order to determine the extent of the problem, and determine some possible solutions. The conclusions of this survey indicated that the number of unwanted horses is increasing, especially in rural areas, due to the downturn in the economy, rising cost of hay and the drought that has affected many parts of the U.S. The survey found that the “most appealing solution” to the problem of the unwanted horse was horse ownership education focused on buying and owning responsibility, followed by the increased ability of rescue/adoption/retraining facilities to care for unwanted horses. The Starlet Project addresses the problem of animal (specifically horse) neglect and homelessness and will help educate the project members, other 4H members, and the public about the responsibility of horse owners. It will demonstrate that with proper time and care, even an orphaned, abandoned horse can be rehabilitated, trained and find a forever home.
How will 4-H Help?
Our 4-H horse leader has adopted an orphaned filly from Horse Plus Humane Society. "Starlet" arrived at the rescue untouched by humans, underweight, in poor health and untrained, with little hope of being adopted. Our goal is for the 4-H members to rehabilitate Starlet, train and eventually find her a forever home. We will also present her at the "Extreme Rescue Makeover" during the Western States Horse Expo in June of 2013. This project is designed to bring awareness to horse rescue and rehabilitation. Plumas County is a rural county with a large horse population, including an equine studies program at Feather River College. The goal of our project is to educate both the horse and non-horse community regarding the problem of the unwanted horse. With Starlet as our example of adoption, rehabilitation and retraining, we can illustrate proper horse care and training. With a focus on owner responsibility and the possibility of adoption, volunteerism and activism, we will serve our community by reducing the number of unwanted and neglected horses, and increasing support and the number of adoptions from local shelters and rescues. This will reduce the burden on local shelter and rescue resources and staff.
Starlet was adopted in late fall, 2012, from Horse Plus Humane Society in Oroville, CA. She was an unwanted, orphaned filly, who was underweight, unhealthy, and had never been handled by humans. She had little hope of being adopted. The American Valley 4-H members helped Starlet get settled into her new home. Members participated in her first veterinary check-up. She had her hooves trimmed and began her training. With the help of local trainers, many hours were spent working with Starlet, so she could be handled safely, learn her manners, become a respectful horse, and eventually be ridden. Starlet was a huge hit at the Plumas county picnic 4-H petting zoo. Soon after, she was in her first horse show. Her story was told as the 4-H horse members volunteered at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, CA. In May 2012, Starlet and the American Valley 4-H horse members exhibited in the Extreme Rescue Makeover competition, where all of Starlet’s new skills were put to the test. She did great! Starlet has continued her training through the summer, and will continue her training, exhibits and competitions, on the way to finding her forever home.
The benefits of the Starlet project were more than anyone could have imagined. The 4-H members learned how to calculate a budget, write letters, and share Starlet’s story. They learned how to work with and care for a young, untrained horse, with emphasis on safety. Community support for the project was overwhelming. Numerous newspaper articles were published at different points in the project. The Starlet Project was featured in the 4-H Foundation’s spring appeal newsletter! The project survey showed that after hearing Starlet’s story, respondents would be more likely to support a local rescue or shelter, and would be more likely to encourage a youth in their life to join 4-H. Starlet’s story got out, and the American Valley 4-H horse program now has 16 members!