In January 2012, we were made aware of the problems that livestock, including horses, were facing in Lesotho at the government pounds. It was alleged that horses (some stolen in South Africa) and taken over the border, some born and bred in Lesotho, were being put into pounds and kept until either the court case was finalized in a theft case, or they were claimed by the owners if they were strays.
We went to carry out an assessment there in February 2012. We packed fodder, medical supplies, feed, and second-hand donated tack to take with us. Solly Motingoe, our Inspector who specializes in working township equines, and Samson Phupha our trainee fieldworker spent a week in Lesotho. Unfortunately, due to the poor condition of the roads, our Tata truck couldn’t make it up the mountain passes, and had to turn back, but we were able to spend some considerable time at Mokhotlong, where there is a large pound.
Our findings were horrendous.
There was not a blade of grass for the horses to eat, and no water. Injured and emaciated animals roamed listlessly around the pound enclosure, stepping over a dead mare, whose young foal was trying to suckle. It was not good at all. It was difficult to work out who was responsible for the problem – in some areas it is the police, and is some area District Administrators.
Solly had meetings with anyone and everyone who would listen. We tried to ensure that the animals were at least given water every day, and that they were taken out of the pound enclosure for grazing to try to sustain them. We appealed to the administrators to permit us to assist by teaching the people responsible how to care for the horses (naturally all of the animals) and implement a simple regime for managing the pound.
We treated wounds, fed the animals, and de-wormed them.
Whilst Solly and Samson were in Lesotho, they took the time to meet local horse and donkeys owners, and found that the majority of horses were in a good condition. Sure, some of the tack was totally unsuitable, and there were some very old horses that needed to be humanely euthanased. Samson used his farriery skills to trim horses feet, and our staff gave away second hand tack that HHCU had been donated to needy horses and owners. They de-wormed as many horses as we could afford. They realised that horses and donkeys are an integral part of daily life in Lesotho. What a beautiful country, but the poverty of the people living there is indescribable.
Once Solly and Samson had returned from Lesotho, planning to solve the problem of the situation at the pounds was a priority for us.
E mails highlighting the dire situation in Lesotho flew from our office – government officials, Lesotho Royalty, Ministers, a foreign Ambassador to Lesotho, even British Royalty were contacted. To date, we have had no response whatsoever…
Good news and help came from World Horse Welfare (UK) who kindly offered to loan us their 4×4 vehicle so that we could visit the other pounds. Highveld Horse Care Unit supporters donated just over R31,000 towards our appeal for assistance. This meant that we could return to Lesotho to try again!
We returned in March 2012.
On this occasion, we were able to inspect five of the nine pounds. Only one of the pounds had provision for water for the animals and was reasonably well-run.
We were terribly saddened to find that the orphaned foal at Mokhotlong pound had died, as had one of the horses that Solly had treated for injuries. We were also disappointed that the animals in the pound here still had no water or provision for feed, and were enclosed without being let out for grazing. We initiated laying a pipeline for a water trough into the pound, but were advised by the District Administrator that she would deal with that – we were welcome to feed the animals. We are keeping in touch to ensure that this is being done.
On this inspection, we tackled the problem of the police horses… they are kept next to the pounds, and the majority of them are in a sorry state. The police were more co operative this time, and accepted our advice and assistance. There are many things that need to be changed, with diplomacy, tact, and firmness.
On this second trip, Solly and Samson again had an opportunity to introduce themselves to the people of Lesotho – explaining what HHCU does, and how we can help them to manage their horses welfare better.
There is obviously a great need for equine welfare in Lesotho, and this concerns our Committee, who have had to put a restriction on the work that we do in Lesotho. HHCU receives no government funding, and relies on the support of the public. Funds are not available to take on new projects – we actually have difficulty funding and managing the work we have to do in South Africa. We have until the end of June 2012 to source the necessary funding to enable us to continue to help the animals in the Lesotho Pounds.
WE ARE KEEPING POSITIVE – WE WILL BE ABLE TO RESOLVE THIS!
FOOTNOTE: Despite the misery and neglect that we see in our line of work, and often abuse that we receive from un co- operative owners, all of the staff have a good sense of humour, and are usually able to leave work at the end of the day with a smile… we’d like to show you a few of the things that make us smile: