The Morris Animal Foundation hopes that the data gathered will identify risk factors in horses being surrendered and help develop intervention strategies.
"Our hope is to utilise scientifically based approaches to determine the magnitude of the unwanted horse problem," says Patricia Olson, who is president and chief executive of the foundation.
"If we know why people give up their horses, we can identify measures to keep horses in their homes," she says.
"A similar approach was used in 1992 to address the issue of unwanted dogs and cats, and the euthanasia numbers decreased an estimated 75 per cent from 1985 to 2005 as intervention strategies were put into place."
The foundation says a major part of the problem is that no-one can accurately calculate how many horses - wanted or unwanted - are living in the United States.
In addition, no-one knows why someone relinquishes a horse, because accurate, comparable and complete data have not been collected and analysed.
The foundation hopes the research will identify risk factors for a horse being relinquished and thereby help develop intervention strategies.
It said horses play many roles in people's lives. However, whether a companion animal or a high-performance athlete, the one constant is that too many become unwanted, it said.
The foundation says a scientific advisory group - invited to the recent Unwanted Horse Summit - will now provide it with a research plan to gather relevant data.
The Unwanted Horse Summit brought together nearly 40 participants from throughout the equine industry, animal welfare community, academic community and government to discuss ways of solving the unwanted horse problem in a humane and effective way.