Smasha Block has been a difficult place to work in – from day one actually. There are literally hundreds of donkeys that are used to cart water to residents living in shacks. They have a hard life. We try to make it easier by supplying the kindest bits that we can, replacing dangerous and ill-fitting harnessing, de-worming the donkeys regularly, and educating the owners and drivers in equine welfare.
We have been working there for a couple of years now. Our assistance has helped, most definitely, but the number of donkeys has steadily increased as the informal area has grown. More people, more shacks, more water = more donkeys. We need to have more of a regular presence there.
World Horse Welfare (UK) are assisting us with financing the clinics, which is a tremendous help. Our partnership is going to benefit so many horses and donkeys in South Africa.
Solly, Samson and Betty of HHCU spent 7 days there earlier this month. Our aim is to establish a working relationship with role players in each of the areas that we cover – Community leaders, Government officials, political leaders – to raise awareness of what we are trying to achieve, and establish an education programme. This will enable us to work with and be accepted by the community, and so improve the welfare of equines and their owners.
CASE STUDY: A HOSPITAL PATIENT
About 4 weeks ago, I reported on a Residensia township mare that had been involved in a motor vehicle accident. Whilst working, the loaded cart she was pulling was hit from behind by a taxi. The driver of the cart was injured, and she sustained serious injuries to her front and back legs from the impact. The owner didn’t want her to come in to the Unit,(we had recently had to euthanase his donkey for metastasized cancer) so Solly started treatment on the mare at his home in Residensia. Although her wounds improved, they were so serious that Solly insisted that she came in for hospitalisation. She was examined by our vet, and extensive treatment was given.
She wasn’t easy to handle at all, she was quite aggressive – rearing up and chopping out, kicking and biting whenever we cleaned her wounds every morning and evening. We understand – she was in pain, and hasn’t had an easy life….. we tried to get round her with gentleness, but she wouldn’t have any of it. It got to the point where treating her was really traumatic – she absolutely hated it and fought us every inch of the way. Sedation worked for a while, but we didn’t want to have to do that every day. Twitching her worked, but we couldn’t twitch her twice a day, it was just not right. We finally had a breakthrough when she accepted being fed carrots by her handler (have to shovel them in quickly and watch you don’t get bitten!) and only then would she permit one person to clean the wounds without attacking. Big relief all round….
When a small puncture wound on her shoulder didn’t heal well, we suspected a foreign body and scanned the shoulder. Yesterday, our vet Dale Wheeler removed a piece of wood which had embedded itself deeply in the shoulder area. She should be more comfortable now, and hopefully, if we can just get the foreleg to heal, she will eventually go home to her owner and have the foal that she is carrying. When she is discharged, a decision will be made as to whether or not she can work again.
We have carried out two in the last week or so – Solly in Rustenburg and areas, and Trevor is in Brits with 5th year veterinary students who are assisting with clinics as a part of their practicals. Ten stallion donkeys are going to be gelded on this clinic, which is great!
Until we started doing outreach work in townships and rural areas, we never realised just how large the donkey population is in South Africa, and the myriad problems associated with their welfare. Our clinics are very basic – treating minor wounds, re-fitting/replacing harnessing, de-worming, and educating owners. Seeing their improved condition after being de-wormed gives us great joy!
We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we can stabilize our funding so that we can continue to do this work – the general public are not all that sympathetic towards these lowly lovable creatures, who really are a ‘beast of burden’. Keep fingers crossed for us – we have put forward motivations to overseas organisations to try to get assistance with this project.
Solly and Samson, the two HHCU staff that deal with Lesotho, have been invited by horse owners in the area to attend a meeting this coming weekend in Rooifontein, near the Lesotho border. Horse owners are going to start having an annual ‘horse festival’ and it is important that we are there to show the work that we do, and the assistance that we can offer. The festival itself will be at the end of July/beginning of October, and we will incorporate that into another trip to Lesotho. Our help is so badly needed there……
SENTIENT BEINGS – HELPING HHCU
Many years ago, Fiona Markham adopted a horse from HHCU called Nakuru. She still has him! Fiona, a devoted animal lover, approached us a while back and said that she had purchased some ‘sms’ donation lines, and would like to donate one to HHCU. The response from our supporters has been overwhelming, with almost 2,500 sms’s being received since the line opened. We would like to thank each and every one of our supporters that contributes to us, and we would like to specially thank Fiona, for her generosity. Please try to support her by googling ‘Sentient Beings’ .
Five very special people who do not wish to be mentioned, but who have donated to our organisation this year in special and generous ways.
I would like to acknowledge the fabulous committee that we have at HHCU – what special people they are! Supportive, giving, always ready to help… we are lucky! When spirits flag, they are always there to help.
and finally……… (pshew, this sounds like a wedding speech) YOU our supporters and friends for taking the time to read this…. THANK YOU!
UPDATE – HACKNEY STUD KIMBERLEY
Bobbie went down to Kimberley to have a meeting with the Public Prosecutor to ensure that our court case against the Hackney Stud breeder and his assistant is on track – apparently the PP is knowledgeable and experienced – good news!
She also rechecked the stud, and was happy to report a huge improvement. No horses tied down, clean stables, and some repairs carried out. The pregnant mare in the yard behind the house on the property is looking good, and the whole area has been cleared up. The horses and ponies are – and always have been – in a good condition physically. We are still awaiting the outcome of the inquiry through the Hackney Society, and will continue with our court case for cruelty – no matter how things have improved, there must be an outcome for causing an animal so much pain, fear and distress. We are pleased however that our intervention has improved life for the horses.
ILLEGAL HORSE SLAUGHTER – KIMBERLEY
We are also continuing to investigate a case of alleged illegal horse slaughter in Kimberley – despite certain people in positions of authority in the area trying to make things difficult for us……. guys, if you are reading this, you are wasting your time – we don’t give up!
Solly and Samson are in Lesotho – some good news, some bad news, but I will give a full update when they return in the middle of this week.
SMASHA BLOCK, DONKEY OUTREACH CLINIC
Last week Trevor Mosia one of our Inspectors spent 5 days in Smasha Block. In general, things have improved in many ways – the harnessing is much better, albeit repaired with odds and ends of unwanted tack from our supporters, and the donkeys health has improved as a result of our de-worming programme. However, I am still saddened that after three years of working in this community, there are things happening that shouldn’t happen…. harness sores… whips (always confiscated by HHCU) and something in the donkeys’ demeanour that absolutely breaks me – drooping ears, legs braced to cope with the weight, and a ‘dead’ eye. Do you know what I mean? It’s just a look that tells me that they are suffering, and that they have given up trying to fight it.
On a positive note, I had a meeting with a gentleman who not only loves donkeys, and is a horseman himself, but also works for a large international company that MAY be able to help us with funding for our donkey clinics. We should hear shortly if we are successful – please keep fingers crossed. If we could just make our presence felt there more often, we would make such a difference. Quarterly clinics are the best that we can manage, and it’s just not enough. In the meantime, Trevor is trying to arrange an alliance with some young men in Smasha Block who are trying to organise the squatter camp, which has grown in leaps and bounds since we started working there. If we can obtain their co operation, we will be able to organise educational sessions, driver training, cart construction, basic medical aid for the donkeys etc. It will be a good move forward, and that is what we must keep our eye and focus on.
That’s all for now – will have lots to tell you about next week! In the meantime, thank you for supporting us, thank you for caring, and thank you for loving our equines!