2016 The Year of the Invisible Horses


2016 The Year of the Invisible Horses

Bringing the World’s Invisible Horses into the Spotlight…

World Horse Welfare has named 2016 the year to highlight the world’s ‘invisible horses’ who often suffer in silence as people either cannot or choose not to see them. The campaign will highlight the plight of these horses, making them ‘visible’ so they can receive the care and protection they so desperately need. The first quarter of the year highlighted the number of foals born into uncertain futures and the wide-reaching impact this has on horse welfare.

From the horses left in barns and stables for weeks on end, to those working many hours every day on the streets of Choluteca in Honduras or Cape Town in South Africa who go unnoticed by governments and policymakers to the horses transported long distances across borders to be slaughtered or face uncertain futures and those who sadly are sometimes found too late.

The charity will be focussing on a number of key themes including: foals and youngsters, rescue and rehoming, working horses around the world and campaigning to improve laws to protect horses.

The third quarter of the year will focus on the plight of working horses, donkeys and mules and World Horse Welfare’s international projects which operate in 13 developing countries – and last year directly helped a total of 15,242 working equines.

Working with horse owners
Working with horse owners. Image credit World Horse Welfare

It is often difficult to imagine communities and economies fuelled by working horses when it is so far removed from the mechanised society that we live in but with around 100 million of these working equines in the developing world it is a stark reality for many people. World Horse Welfare International Programme Officer, Alana Chapman, explains:

“These often ‘invisible’ working horses lead demanding and exhausting lives which can be worsened further by the wounds and injuries they suffer through inadequate shoeing, harnesses and nutrition. It is all too easy to lay the blame on the horses’ owners and handlers, but in many cases the owners are trying their best and unfortunately they simply do not have the knowledge or understanding of how their actions can impact on the welfare of their horses. Added to this, they could also be facing difficult decisions around whether to feed their family or their horse – a dilemma that is hard for any of us to imagine. It is very rare to come across a horse owner who is deliberately cruel.

Owners often rely on horses as their only mode of transport. Image credit World Horse Welfare
Owners often rely on horses as their only mode of transport. Image credit World Horse Welfare

“By understanding that the majority of challenges faced by working equids around the world are a result of the people who care for and/or handle them, our approach is to influence the behaviour of these people and the societies in which they live, so that they understand how to better look after their horse, and why it helps them too – so these improvements and changes are sustainable with long-term benefits.

“Changing behaviour can be a challenging and often complex task which requires understanding of both the cultures in which these horse-owning communities exist and the difficult circumstances faced by members of those communities. We currently have successful projects in 13 countries across Central America, Asia and Africa but our aim is to double that number by 2018 so that we can help even more horses and the owners who rely on them for transport, livelihoods and as an essential part of daily life.

“In order to achieve this we are limited in the resources we have as a charity, but when we work in collaboration with local partners such as governments, universities, human development organisations and sports regulators – the target straightaway becomes much more attainable and the local knowledge of each partner is invaluable.

“Whilst World Horse Welfare’s projects may differ in environment, culture and available resources –each one has an overall objective of not only improving the lives of working horses but improving the livelihoods of their owners too”

“Training and education play a central role in our projects. Our experts in farriery, saddlery, nutrition and business skills develop courses to address the needs of working horses in each geographical area and through doing so empower communities to improve the welfare of their horses.


“Explaining the theory behind our work and approach can only go some way towards showing why these communities of people and horses need our help so desperately. It is only the stories of the people themselves which fully demonstrate what these horses mean to their lives. One example is Griselda who lives in the Ngabe territories in the south of Costa Rica where World Horse Welfare has been working alongside Costa Rica Equine Welfare (CREW) since November 2014.

Here is Griselda’s story:
Griselda Degracia is 45 years old and lives with her six children who range in age from six years old to 20 years old.  In the photo she can be seen with her daughter Avelia and two of their five horses.

Griselda lives at home with her six children, husband and five horses. Image Credit World Horse Welfare

Griselda, her husband and their children rely on their horses for transport as well as to help them earn a living. Through this collaborative project Griselda has learnt the importance of good husbandry and regularly cleaning her horses’ hooves and her husband is being professionally taught how to trim them.

Children in Ngabe, Costa Rica taking part in a workshop
Children in Ngabe, Costa Rica taking part in a workshop. Image credit World Horse Welfare

Since 2014 Griselda has become an important member of the team, helping trainers to translate from Spanish to the local language Ngabe during workshops. Griselda has also started visiting local schools to teach children about the importance of good horse management and the basics of how to care for a horse.  She is ensuring that the next generation of her local community have the skills to give horses in the region a promising future.

You can find out more about World Horse Welfare’s international projects and the charity’s work to help bring the world’s invisible horsesinto the spotlight at World Horse Welfare International Work


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Author: Suzanne Ashton Founder, Everything Horse Ba Hons Marketing Management email: contact@everythinghorseuk.co.uk

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