What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Neglect Suspected, What to Do?


Neglect is the failure to provide adequate food, shelter, farrier, medical or dental care to a horse that results in a poor quality of life, pain and suffering or premature death.

Signs of neglect include underweight skinny body condition (very bony or ribby), poor or severely unkempt hair coat, very overgrown or cracked hooves, severe lameness over a long period, inability to eat, being unable to rise, and general malaise. Without adequate nutrition and good care, a variety of health conditions may result.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

your role


What To Do

If you suspect that a horse is being neglected, first recognize that there may be an explanation. A thin horse is not necessarily a neglected horse. Perhaps the horse has a medical condition and is being treated for the problem, or is just very old but is otherwise well cared for.

Do not approach or otherwise confront the owner of the horse. An allegation of neglect is very serious and may result in civil or criminal penalties for an owner and even confiscation of the animal. Intervention will likely be taken as a personal affront to the owner, and may result in an emotionally charged response.

Talk to your vet and get their advice on how to proceed. They are rooted in the local animal-owning community and will have advice or provide you with other resources.

What Not To Do

Do not approach or otherwise confront the owner of the horse. Do not trespass on private land to confirm your hunch.

Never feed or provide medical treatment to someone else's horse without first discussing the situation with them or an appropriate authority.

your vet's role

Your vet may refer you to a local horse shelter, state livestock board, state vet's office, or animal rescue organization. Each state has unique laws that govern an owner's responsibility and the power of the state to intervene.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Describe the situation to me.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP