Just about every kid—and many grown-ups, too—put a pony at the top of their holiday wish lists. And many view the holiday season as a perfect time to combine gifting with philanthropy. But while adopting a horse from an equine rescue might seem like a good way to do that, taking on the responsibility of any animal deserves careful consideration. Here, two rescuers shared their tips on what to consider when preparing to adopt and bringing home your rescue horse.

Jennifer Williams, PhD, founder of the Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society in College Station, Texas, believes adopters should not assume that a rescue horse has been maltreated in the past. Some might have been surrendered by owners who couldn’t afford their care, while others could have been poorly matched with previous owners or simply never received the training they required. And even those that were maltreated are no longer victims of neglect once they have been rescued, she said.

“So many people treat rescue horses differently … afraid to upset them or make them feel unloved,” Williams said. “The neglect, abuse, and mistreatment is in the past—leave it there.”

Essentially, treat your rescue horse like, well, a horse.

That’s not to say rescued horses don’t have gaps in their training—many do. Often, it’s up to the adopter to find those training holes and fill them.

“I treat a rescue horse as though he knows nothing and I basically restart him,” Williams said. “If he’s easy to catch and halter, we don’t work on that. If he knows how to tie, we move past that lesson.