Horses are big animals that come with a big heart and an even bigger responsibility.
A student club on campus, A Second Chance, is fundraising to support a shelter horse as its foster family until it finds a permanent owner. The club’s president, Kayleigh Burke, a sophomore university studies major, is passionate about the cause because of the positive outcomes she has witnessed in helping these horses.
“I originally joined the club because, at the farm I used to work at, we had adopted a few horses that had been abused, and when they first came, they were really timid. (With a) little tender loving care, they were good as new,” Burke said.
A Second Chance aspires to foster at least one horse a semester. The club is less than two years old, so its members are in the midst of fundraising for their first horse. They sold raffle tickets at tailgates during the football season to save money for one this semester.
Burke said the club would pay for the boarding and daily handling and riding of the horse until it was adopted.
According to the Equine Rescue League website, fostering a horse means supporting its financial needs and providing individual attention and affection until it is adopted.
The ERL, a non-profit organization located near Leesburg, Va., helps A Second Chance to pay for all of the foster horse’s needs.
The club is searching for a local farm or place of boarding where their foster horse could stay. A Second Chance finds potential foster horses through the ERL.
The process begins with a horse being given to a rescue shelter by its owner, or is taken there due to abuse issues. While in recovery, fosters of the horse sponsor it and spend time with it until the horse is adopted. Once it is adopted, and if the horse is kept in reasonable distance, the ERL checks on the horse regularly until it declares the horse is in good hands.
If the horse is given up again later, the ERL re-adopts it.
Though abandoned and unwanted horses are not a major problem in Blacksburg, rescue clinics in surrounding areas have plenty on their hands.
Krissy Peacock, a senior animal and poultry sciences major, and president of the Virginia Tech Equestrian Club, said there is an obvious problem not only in Roanoke, but the entire country with an overpopulation of horses and a lack of owners.
The primary reason people give up their horses is the extensive costs of caring for one. The average cost for boarding a horse is $300 per month. That does not include the equipment needed to maintain them or the medications they may require.
These costs do not subside for the shelter owners either, however. Most rescues are non-profits, so owners mostly invest their own money or rely on donators to support the animals.
Caring for the horses is also time consuming. Volunteers are vital to the rescue centers, because the owners could lose time from another job by maintaining the shelter on their own.
Another reason owners take the horse to a shelter is they can be surprising animals, Peacock said. Some owners may not have the skills to control a horse that behaves differently than they expected.
“A lot of people get intimidated and discouraged when they end up with a horse that they can’t handle behaviorally," Peacock said. "it’s just too much for them.”
Though these large animals can be daunting and full of surprises, they are known as gentle giants in the equine community. They are athletic beings that desire a leader to depend on and a goal to chase.
“They want to have a leader,” Peacock said. “So if a person can be a leader for them, they’re going to give them everything they can.”
A Second Chance is full of members who want to see the horses recover and find a new home. The club has about 25 active members, some of which are also in the Equestrian Club. Though most of them have horse experience, Burke said the club is open to anyone who is interested.
This dedication and a horse’s personality is what Burke said bonds a person to these animals. She said they are adaptable creatures, and though it is sad to know what they go through, they bounce back.