The Foundation for the Horse


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Whether due to economic crises, natural or man-made disasters, or the growing shortage of equine veterinarians, The Foundation for the Horse seeks to deliver urgent care to equines.

For nearly three decades, The Foundation for the Horse has remained loyal to its founding mission. “Our mission has remained short and to the point – that is, improving the welfare of the horse,” says Paul D. Ransdell, Ed.D., senior development officer. “How that is accomplished has not changed much
in 29 years. The Foundation’s funding priorities are education and scholarships for equine veterinary students; innovation and discovery through research; and programs to help horses at risk or in urgent need.”

The Foundation was the product of an estate gift from Halina Leonard, a Southern California racing enthusiast and widow of a trainer. Following her death in 1993, her close friend and veterinarian, Dr. Wes Williams, advised that a portion of her estate be given to the American Association of Equine Practitioners
(AAEP) to benefit equine welfare. “The result was the establishment of what has recently been rebranded as The Foundation for the Horse,” says Ransdell.
For the first 25 years, the Foundation’s growth was gradual, he continues. “Operating and overhead expenses were paid entirely by AAEP, over which time The Foundation directed most of its resources to the benefit of the horse while retaining a portion of its funds to grow its capital reserves (i.e., endowment) now totaling around $6 million.” Then, five years ago, The Foundation raised gift income of just under $1 million annually.

“Since then,” says Ransdell, “it has raised more than double that amount annually. This means more impact for the good of horses and veterinary students.” Although the Foundation’s staff remains small, it is assisted by AAEP in the form of office and equipment, accounting and payroll, legal and compliance, IT and HR, and salary and benefits support, he adds.

The Foundation’s research priority has grown consistently over the past five years, with an emphasis on exceptional science implemented by new and typically young investigators, notes Ransdell. “The Equine Disease Communication Center, which tracks and alerts registered users to infectious disease outbreaks, is one of the Foundation’s more recent initiatives. Likewise, the Vet Direct Safety Net, which reimburses veterinarians up to $600 for urgent care when a horse owner cannot afford veterinary care for his or her animal, was implemented in 2020.”


Paul D. Ransdell headshot
Paul D. Ransdell

Ongoing Priorities

Since its inception, The Foundation for the Horse has balanced its funding among educational programs, scholarships for equine veterinary students and innovative research, as well as programs to address horses at risk. “All of our funding priorities are ongoing and remain consistent with the overall growth of The Foundation,” says Ransdell. “Our focus remains to expand our network of trusted nonprofit partners who deliver the urgent care for equines in need, whether those needs are due to natural or man-made disasters, overwork and inadequate care for donkeys and mules in developing countries, or economic recession or depression negatively impacting one- or two-horse owners.

“One of The Foundation’s most immediate concerns is also a top concern for AAEP – a narrowing pipeline of future equine practitioners. Given the cost of veterinary school and the student loan debt burdening a large majority of graduates, many young practitioners are drawn into small animal practice
for higher early-career compensation and more predictable work hours. Scholarships, mentorship, and peer support for new practitioners is a priority emphasis.”

The Foundation’s top priorities include:

  • Disaster Relief: The Foundation works with equine veterinarians, state agencies and nonprofits to ensure that emergency relief, veterinary supplies and care is provided to horses impacted during storms and tornadoes.
  • Horses at Risk: This program is designed to help horses at risk of neglect or abandonment by hosting low-cost or free clinics that offer castration to help prevent unintentional breeding and overbreeding, as well as help produce a gentler horse that is more adoptable.
  • Working Equids: The group was started in 2008, when a group of veterinarians met to discuss an organized effort to support working equids. The term “equitarian” was coined to describe this volunteer initiative, leading to the Equitarian Workshop and the nonprofit organization, the Equitarian Initiative. The Foundation for the Horse has supported the workshop, as well as provided leadership development grants to bring senior veterinary students and recent graduates to the workshop.
  • Student Education: The Foundation looks to support veterinary students who are financially overburdened and therefore miss out on training opportunities or forego equine practice for small animal medicine. Veterinary and Graduate Student Scholarships: The Foundation awards about 50 scholarships
    annually, providing new practitioners with financial aid to get established.
  • Research: The Foundation nurtures scientific advances, including targeted research projects, workshops and collaborations with industry experts.
  • The Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC): The EDCC seeks to improve the health and welfare of the horse by communicating real-time alerts and information to help reduce and prevent the spread of equine infectious diseases.

“We seek to be the world’s top-of-mind charitable organization for everyone who cares about the horse,” says Ransdell. “Our audience includes horse owners, trainers, equestrians, equine media and broadcasting, apparel, transportation and the highest echelons of agribusiness. The Foundation for the Horse stands ready to help them improve the well-being of the horse.”

For more information on The Foundation for the Horse, visit


Photo credit: Studio

Photo caption: Paul D. Ransdell