Sheltering Horses: A Case Study

If you are thinking of starting an equine rescue, or you are already involved with a shelter, you can find some great tips on housing from Heather E. Lewis AIA, NCARB, of Animal Arts. In this article...

If you are thinking of starting an equine rescue, or you are already involved with a shelter, you can find some great tips on housing from Heather E. Lewis AIA, NCARB, of Animal Arts. In this article Lewis walks us through some considerations on how to make housing and handling rescued horses easier on the animals and caretakers.

A variety of circumstances have led to the recent increase in unwanted horses across the United States. The Unwanted Horse Coalition estimated the number at 170,000 horses in 2007, and the number has grown since that time. Fortunately, many groups are coming together to care for unwanted horses, to build advocacy and to connect with others with the same goals.

One good case study is the Harmony Equine Center in Franktown, Colorado, operated by the Dumb Friends League. At this facility, horses are admitted, treated, rehabilitated, trained and ultimately adopted into new homes. Here are some of the lessons we learned when we assisted with the design of the Harmony Equine Center.

Arriving horses are brought into a separate admissions barn that is designed to focus solely on their initial needs. These horses are frightened and sometimes ill, injured or untrained. The strategies that Harmony Equine Center uses to get these horses off to the right start include:

·The horses are unloaded into an alley that leads directly into a large corral where they can run around safely until they are calm enough to be evaluated.

·The intake facility includes a veterinary area that is designed for handling a variety of different horses, from trained to wild. The veterinary area is open and well-lit to provide a safe working environment.

·Horses are housed in ways that complement their previous experiences. Wild horses can be housed outside in semi-covered paddocks, while tame horses are housed in the barn. There is also a separate isolation barn for horses that show any signs of potential communicable disease.

Once the horses have been held for a few days and are deemed to be healthy, they can be placed into other barns where they are trained and rehabilitated. When the horses are ready for adoption, they are moved to the adoption barn. Harmony Equine Center has a very effective adoption program. Horses are practically flying into loving homes! Here are three reasons why:

·The adoption barn is friendly, inviting and open to the public. The center hosts periodic events and open houses to continue to provide opportunities for people to visit, to learn about the mission and to adopt a new friend.

·The staff provides potential adopters with information about each horse’s health, soundness, behavior and training.

·The center does a lot of media and online outreach, focusing on the message “You can help” to provide homeless horses with a new life by adopting, volunteering, offering financial assistance or simply by spreading the message to others.

It is exciting to hear about the work of both new and established groups that are committed to caring for at-risk horses. In time, the number of unwanted horses will shrink rather than grow. We look forward to seeing this progress!

For further information about operating an equine rescue facility, refer to the guidelines provided by the Humane Society of the United States at

Read about Harmony Equine Center at

Heather E. Lewis AIA, NCARB, joined Animal Arts in August 2000 and has been a principal in the firm since 2004. Her primary area of expertise is the design and management of equine and large animal projects. Examples of Heather’s equine and large animal work include master planning for Woodside Equine Clinic in Ashland, Virginia, the repurposing of existing buildings for equine hospitals in Kamuela, Hawaii and Murrysville, Pennsylvania, and freestanding equine facilities such as Evergreen Equine in Reading, Vermont. Heather has worked on the design of two significant equine facilities in Australia, including the Equine Health Centre for the University of Adelaide, Roseworthy Campus in Roseworthy, South Australia. Heather recently completed work on the renovation of the equine adoption center for the Harmony Equine Center for the Dumb Friends League in Franktown, Colorado.Heather speaks regularly about the design of large animal facilities at the Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference for the Central Veterinary Conference. Heather spoke at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners conference on “the equine hospital of the future.” She has been published on large animal facility design topics in Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Practice Management Consult and Veterinary Practice News. For more information about Animal Arts visit their website.






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