Objective: To determine demographic characteristics of horses donated to the North Carolina State University Equine Health Center (EHC) between 1996 and 2008.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Animals: 122 horses donated to the EHC between January 1996 and December 2008, and 246 horses offered for donation to the EHC between January 2007 and December 2008.
Procedures: Telephone and medical records were examined. Data were collected in 5 categories: age, sex, breed, reason for donation, and use prior to donation.
Results: From January 1996 through December 2008, 122 horses were donated to the EHC (median, 3 horses/y; range, 0 to 39 horses/y). There were 131 and 115 horses offered for donation during 2007 and 2008, respectively, of which 38 and 23 were accepted. Mean +/- SD age of horses offered for donation during 2007 and 2008 was 12.7 +/- 6.7 years, with 75 of the 246 (30.5%) horses between 6 and 10 years old. Musculoskeletal disease was the most commonly listed reason horses were offered for donation (115/240 [47.9%]).
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Results indicated that unwanted horses donated to the EHC between 1996 and 2008 spanned a wide range of ages and breeds and included both males and females. The most common reason given for unwanted horses offered for donation during 2007 and 2008 was musculoskeletal disease, with degenerative joint disease, lameness of undetermined cause, laminitis, and navicular disease being the most common musculoskeletal conditions.