Policy: Policy for Retirement of Horses

Revised: March 2023

Effective date: July 2023

Review date: March 2026

Responsible Party: Animal & Range Sciences Department Head in cooperation with the College of Agriculture Dean’s Office

Introduction and Purpose:

Pleasure and work horses have a rich heritage in Montana. The MSU Equine Science Program is dedicated to advancing practical and research-based knowledge to students and the community. Horses are housed at the MSU Montana Agricultural Experiment Station’s (MAES) Bozeman Agricultural Research and Teaching (BART) Farm in Bozeman, MT, Red Bluff Research Ranch near Norris, Montana, Northern Agricultural Research Center near Havre, Montana, and Fort Keogh Range and Livestock Laboratory near Miles City, Montana. At the MSU BART Farm, the horses include a university-owned breeding herd including broodmares, foals, and yearlings and a leased string for equitation and Equine Science classes, student horses that are boarded, private horses brought in on a daily basis for the MSU Farrier School and rodeo horses.

The purpose of this protocol is to define the retirement or "end-of-use" practices to be followed for horses owned by MSU. The active lifespan of all horses is dictated by their capacity for use. From a practical standpoint, all MSU horses should be retired before their age, injury, illness, or behavioral problems preclude their uses in equitation classes, Equine Science instruction, ranch work, or research. Specifically, horses planned solely for research and teaching must have an approved Agricultural or Institutional Animal Care and Use committee (AACUC/IACUC) protocol and Animal Use Agreement (AUA). Horses used for equine science or equitation classes must be able to safely participate in constant strenuous activities required in equitation classes and exhibit a temperament that does not present an obvious danger to novice and intermediate students. This protocol will be the standard for dispersing horses owned by MSU; it is designed to be consistent with State of Montana property regulations and the humane treatment of horses. 

Policy and Procedures:

All horses are required to be monitored daily for health and well-being. Whether a horse should be dispersed (sale, adoption, or euthanasia) will be decided jointly among the Equine Operations Foreman (or Livestock Operations Manager), the Department Head of Animal and Range Sciences, and a consulting veterinarian, or their designates. Any teaching or research faculty utilizing a horse recommended for dispersal must be consulted prior to any action taken.  Teaching or research faculty should bring attention to any horse whose health or behavior should be considered for dispersal. MSU does not intend to generate excess revenue from the results of this policy; any monies collected will be used to support the continuation of the equine program, primarily including horse replacement costs, animal maintenance and care, and equine facilities maintenance. The following stepwise protocol will be followed:

  1. Sale

    Sound horses that can be ridden, but are not suitable for equitation classes, research, breeding, or ranch uses are to be sold. Horses may be sold through a reputable, local (including on-site) auction, marketed online through the Animal and Range Department sites, or if sufficient demand exists, a list of buyers may be maintained for sale on a first come, first served basis. All sale horses will be advertised with sale descriptions and photographs using advertisements that are cost-effective and sufficient to reach the public at large. The minimum bid or sale price for these horses will be set based on current market values by the Livestock Operations Foreman or Manager and approved in writing by the Animal and Range Science’s Department Head. To give future potential owners the best possible opportunity for success, interested parties will be allowed to try-out the horse at an approved time on MSU property. The purchaser will be responsible for board, feed, and any veterinarian costs from the time of sale until pick-up.
  2. Adoption

    All horses deemed to be unsuitable for sale or unable to be sold (in item 1 above) will be considered for adoption. Accurate descriptions and photographs of these horses will be advertised as described above (item 1) and distributed to known and reputable Montana horse adoption agencies. Individual adoptions will occur on a first-come-first-served basis in cooperation with the adoptive agency (if used) and/or MSU. A $250 adoption fee is required, and recipients of adoptive horses will sign appropriate adoption forms. All board, transportation, veterinarian, and feed costs after the adoption are the responsibility of the recipient, including in the event there is a delay in pick up.
  3. Euthanasia

    Horses severely injured, untreatably ill, chronically lame, or unsuitable for sale or adoption that may not otherwise be ethically usable by the program will be euthanized following the Euthanasia Guidelines from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP, 2021). The AAEP criteria are: 
    1. Continuous or unmanageable pain from a condition that is chronic or incurable
    2. A medical condition or surgical procedure that has a poor prognosis for a good quality of life
    3. Continuous analgesic medication and/or box stall confinement for the relief of pain for the rest of its life
    4. An unmanageable medical or behavioral condition that renders it a hazard to itself or its handlers