News from the Kentucky Horse Council

Kentucky Horse News

The Kentucky Humane Society Equine CARE Team is asking for your help!

Horses in Kentucky face a number of challenges. Some of the two most critical issues are free-roaming horses in Eastern Kentucky and orphaned foals.

Free-Roaming Horses in Eastern Kentucky


There is a population of free-roaming horses in the Appalachian region of Kentucky that is unknown to most horse lovers. The land is heavily forested and mountainous, so pasture land for horses is very limited. Coal reclamation sites (land that is re-seeded after mining is completed) provide ideal pasture land and have become an unofficial grazing area for local horses.

These are domestic horses, not wild ones, that have been turned out to survive on their own. Many are approachable, friendly horses that are easy to handle; some are owned and collected periodically for riding purposes; others have been abandoned by owners who have no intention of reclaiming them. Still others have been born free, have never been handled by humans, and ownership is questionable.

The winter months pose the most difficulty for these horses trying to survive on their own. Many herds descend from the mountain tops when grass is scarce and reside along the road where foraging is better and they can lick the salt from the roads. The horses pose a public safety risk for drivers as well as themselves. Horses have been reported chewing siding off of homes, licking salt off cars and causing traffic accidents.

Tough Economic Times Make Problem Worse

Certain areas of Appalachia have always struggled with poverty, and recent economic challenges have made the problem worse. In addition, word of these unofficial grazing sites spread beyond local residents, and people started coming from farther away to dump horses in eastern Kentucky. More and more people were indiscriminate and released stallions, along with mares and geldings, and the population began to grow at a rate that was not sustainable for the amount of forage available.

Many of the herds now contain stallions, and breeding has become prolific. Left unchecked, the horse population will continue to grow, making a bad problem worse. In addition, these offspring do not receive the benefit of human contact and the herds are shifting from friendly to feral – making care, rescue or rehabilitation an increasingly difficult task.

Due to the growing population and lack of infrastructure to care for these herds, many of these horses are underweight and become emaciated during the winter months. A growing number of them are experiencing medical issues related to the lack of veterinary, farrier and dental care. Unattended, these problems can be life threatening.

Learn how KHS’ Equine Programs are helping free-roaming horses in Eastern Kentucky

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Orphaned Foals


Orphan – the name itself evokes sadness and sympathy, a baby without a mother, in this case a foal. Foals can be orphaned through the death or removal of their mother, because their mother cannot produce milk, or because the mare rejects her foal.

Regardless of the reason, it all leads to one urgent and time sensitive problem: the fragile foal needs immediate intervention and intensive care. How that foal is managed for the first several days, weeks and months of its life is directly linked to its chance of survival, its later development and the adjustment to life as an adult horse.

In 2014 KHS assisted with the placement of 15 orphaned foals who needed temporary foster and safe passage into specialized rescue agencies designed to help young foals. Lilly Pond Foal Rescue took many of these beautiful foals and found them a forever home, while others were placed locally or with other partner agencies.

Our goal for 2015 is to help up to 30 foals that find themselves orphaned. But we need your help. We have volunteers lined up to transport and provide temporary foster, and we have rescues willing to take them. But we need donations to cover the cost of fuel, milk replacer and medical care for these fragile infants.

About Nurse Mare Foals

A nurse mare foal is a foal who was born so that its mother produces milk. The lactating mares are then used as surrogate mothers for foals from other horses. In order to have milk, the nurse mare has to give birth to her own baby, and their foals become orphans. These newborn foals are generally taken away from their mothers within a few days or weeks of birth. Nurse mare foals are difficult and expensive to raise, and their survival rate is low if there is not intervention.

Until KHS stepped in to help, there were no rescues in Kentucky dedicated to the foster and placement of nurse mare foals. There are a few out-of-state organizations that will take in Kentucky’s nurse mare foals, but most cannot keep up with demand.

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